Press intrusion exposed in Dumb Show at Abbey Theatre in St Albans

PUBLISHED: 14:37 03 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:38 03 June 2018

Dumb Show at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

Dumb Show at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

Anne Frizell

How far should the press be allowed to go in pursuit of a good story?

Dumb Show at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne FrizellDumb Show at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Anne Frizell

How far should the press be allowed to go in pursuit of a good story?

And what constitutes ‘The Public Interest’? These are some of the questions posed in dark comedy Dumb Show, which opens at The Abbey Theatre on Friday, June 8.

Written by Joe Penhall, it was first performed at the Royal Court in 2004.

According to the playwright, Dumb Show is about “What happens in the absolute absence of compassion. Where society is a vacuum devoid of any real empathy. Where the only thing that’s left is an utterly plasticized, platitudinous and prurient tabloid sentimentality”.

Barry has always been a reliable ‘Mr Saturday Night’ on the TV, but the perks and privileges of real wealth and superstardom have always eluded him.

So when the promise of fame and fortune beckons, he greedily takes the bait.

The ratings may have taken a dip and his marriage is in trouble, but the jokes still flow, and now his producer has introduced him to a pair of hot-shot bankers.

In a plush hotel suite, the bankers flatter Barry’s ego and fragile sense of self, offering him big money to give an after-dinner talk.

The brandy slips down, Barry hilariously spills all, and falls for a particularly sticky honeytrap.

The ‘bankers’ are really Greg and Liz, a couple of investigative reporters on a downmarket tabloid, who believe that their entrapment of Barry – boasting of his drug-taking lifestyle and then making a clumsy pass at the woman – are in the public interest.

At each turn Dumb Show confronts questions of ethics, exploitation and personal morality, in a culture where humiliating celebrities has become a national pastime.

It harks back to the 90s, when journalists would rifle through rubbish bins to get any scraps of juicy information about the owners’ private lives, to sell more copies of their publication. This was followed by several instances of illegal phone hacking, which led to the Leveson Inquiry.

Director Joanne Emery points out that: “Even though Dumb Show was first staged 14 years ago, it seems that little has changed in our society, vis-à-vis our seemingly insatiable appetite for salacious gossip about the celebrities who grace our TV screens.”

Performances take place from Friday, June 8 to Saturday, June 9 at 8pm, and on Sunday, June 10 at 2.30pm.

There are further performances from Tuesday, June 12 to Saturday, June 16 at 8pm.

To book tickets go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01727 857861.

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