By Simon Cunliffe; Directed by Danny Mulheron
Circa Theatre | October 13-November 10
This year has seen the premiere of The Newsroom on SoHo and the return of Live at Six at Downstage Theatre. The theatre-going public’s awareness of how journalism functions has never been higher, so any play that intends to enlighten us further about the ironies and complexities of the media needs to be pretty special. Unfortunately, The Truth Game doesn’t offer its audience much more than a brief overview of how a newspaper is put together.
Frank Stone (Alan Lovell) is a grumpy old newsman who has returned from a conference in Sydney to find things are changing in the offices of The Advocate. Frank, the reluctant hero of the piece, is self righteous and misanthropic. So Lovell plays him as a shouty, grumpy, unpleasant man. His office is populated by a cavalcade of journalism staff, equally conventional and only slightly more likable. Bill Singer (Paul McLaughlin) is the manager who tries to keep both the journos and ‘corporate’ happy. Ralph Jones (Brian Sergent) is the comic relief, the old journo who has had his day. Sam Hunter (Jessica Robinson) is the love interest and Jo Pointer (Acushla-Tara Sutton) is the new sub-editor with a big secret. The performers are clearly working hard to breathe some interest into Cunliffe’s cardboard characters, and there are some enjoyable moments. Brian Sergent and Paul McLaughlin need kudos for their professionalism and enthusiasm throughout. The office is populated by four young journos (students from Whitireia Performance Centre) who keep the pace and energy up.
The plot sees Frank come face-to-face with Belinda Barnes (Janine Burchett), the face of ‘synergy’, blogging and, well, the 21st century. With the role of ‘editor’ up for grabs and a paper needing to be printed, we have just enough conflict for two hours. Frank and Belinda spend the play bickering about the media, how technology is changing and how everyone is a ‘wanker’. That is until Frank gets distracted and decides to shout at someone else or blame things on young people. The actual conversation behind The Truth Game could be interesting, but just as the play is about to escape merely outlining questions and really engage with issues, the banal plot gets in the way. Suddenly a war starts or someone wants a baby or we have to fire the old guy.
A two-tiered open plan newsroom makes up the set. Dennis Hearfield gives the performers a maze of desks and tables, and an exciting second level where the big business decisions are made. The props and set pieces could have been borrowed from an actual newsroom, but, while being functional, it’s not exactly pretty to look at.
The classic two-act structure is embraced with such devotion that The Truth Game falls into cliché. There is nothing unique or interesting and, while its heart is in the right place, The Truth Game would do better as a strongly worded letter to the editor.