Hope Theatre, London – until 14 March 2020
tell it slant is a new dark comedy written by Maev Mac Coille. She has avoided specifying gender for any of the characters, and Joshua Jewkes and Cliodhna McCorley will alternate the roles of Dara and Vick throughout the run. Given the relationship dynamic between these two characters, it would be interesting to see how this impacts the story. Unfortunately, as I’m only able to catch the show once, my review is based on Dara being played by Jewkes and Vick by McCorley.
Set in the press room of an established organisation or body (details of which are never specified, but it has a whiff of government department to it) in Britain, our story kicks off on Vick’s first day. Before Vick (McCorley) arrives Dara (Jewkes) and Sam (Alia Sohail) are talking about Dara’s weekend being ruined by a badly timed, non-story involving cats that was whipped up into headline news by social media. Dara is clearly feeling jaded by the whole experience. Their boss Alex (Vincent Shiels) arrives and introduces Vick to the team. Except it turns out that Dara and Vick have already met. Dara just didn’t realise who Vick was, and the tension between them is palpable.
Maev Mac Coille has a real talent for layering the plot elements of a scene, putting her characters under increasing pressure. I don’t want to give too much away, but Dara will soon be wishing that headline news stories about cats was all they had to worry about. A genuine crisis hits, leaving Dara, Vick and Sam locked in the press room trying to get the information they need, while fielding endless calls from the press. Mac Coille really captures the reality of this powder keg situation and infuses it with plenty of humour and hints of peril.
As the story unfolds many rich themes come through. Facts vs ‘ a good story’ is particularly resonant in these days of fake news, as a simple story will always beat the complexity of facts when it comes to capturing the public’s attention. Vick, who has joined the press team after years as a journalist, understands that there is truth and there is “true enough”.
Social media hysteria, and the need to find someone to blame, regardless of actual culpability, are also important threads. Maev Mac Coille doesn’t shy away from the realities of modern news journalism, but does provide a balanced perspective. This is not a piece designed to demonise the press, instead it explores the reality of human needs in a hyper-connected world, and how journalists are forced to respond to it.
Constance Villemot’s design really brings to life the press office location, and is evocative of the many open plan offices I’ve worked in across the years. Jewkes and McCorley have a wonderful chemistry, and brilliantly bring to life the sexual tension that simmers between their two characters. Alia Sohail has great comic timing as their co-worker Sam, who twigs that something is up straight way. While Vincent Shiels convincingly carries the weight of the world on his shoulders as their boss Alex.
‘tell it slant’ is a funny and engaging dark comedy that keeps you hooked from start to finish. Erica Miller’s energetic direction keeps our attention throughout, and she brings wonderful performances out of her talented cast, unfazed by the challenge of alternate performance role swaps.
You have until 14th March to catch it at the Hope Theatre, who will your Dara be?