Steve Thompson's play is a perplexing one, certainly in terms of its overall effect anyway. Set in the busy offices of a tabloid newspaper, and unfolding in real time, the story revolves around the discovery of a compromising picture that appears to be the scoop of the season but is it exactly what it seems? Sardonic newshound Lister is determined to publish and face the possibility of libel whilst new night editor Bas and barrister Abby are more cautious, aware of the consequences of sloppy journalism.
Caught up in a maelstrom of personal prejudice and nurturing grievances that threaten to cloud their judgement, the hero of the hour is veteran sub-editor Howard who discovers the dark secret lurking behind the photo, providing the prospect of a way to salvage the situation.
The first half of the play, though well-acted, feels rather stale and faintly derivative whilst the second is snappy, dynamic and far fresher, the tighter script coming to a genuinely intriguing if not unexpected conclusion.
Initially, the plot seems merely to tread over-familiar ground, exploring the debate between the right to privacy versus the media right to publish; the scurrilous depths of the popular press ripe for criticism. 'It's not in the public interest just because it interests the public,' as it's wryly summarised.
It's not until the far meatier second half that Thompson really seems to find his feet but, to give him credit, he does so in considerable style, drawing together the disparate threads into a wholly engaging drama. All the characters are strongly developed, the cast presenting a vivid portrait of newspaper manners and mores that strikes a necessary chord in today's ambivalent society.
What other critics had to say.....
FIONA MOUNTFORD for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Enthralling"; LYN GARDNER for THE GUARDIAN says, "Sharp, slick, cynical and howlingly funny." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "Buzzes energetically."