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Clarion

Greg Hicks and Laura Smithers in Clarion, Arcola Theatre. Photo: Simon Annand Greg Hicks and Laura Smithers in Clarion, Arcola Theatre. Photo: Simon Annand

The Clarion of the title is the kind of newspaper which has immigration scare stories splashed across its front pages every day: ‘Fury Over Sharia Law For Toddlers’, that kind of thing. It trades in alarmism in order to keep its circulation figures steady in an age where the internet is rapidly reshaping journalism.

Director Mehmet Ergen has attracted a high profile cast in Clare Higgins and Greg Hicks. Higgins plays former foreign correspondent, Verity, a pioneer in her day reduced to working for the tabloid through booze and debt, and Hicks plays Morris Honeyspoon, the frothing, right wing despot of an editor given to taking an air horn and a centurion’s helmet into editorial meetings, a man who views women either as whores or mother figures.

It’s clear that journalist-turned-playwright Mark Jagasia knows whereof he speaks, having done time at the Daily Express. He can write a well-crafted line – there are some finely calibrated jokes – but there is also something uncomfortable about Ergen’s production. There is real anger underlining Jagasia’s satire, at the insidious culture of fear bred by reckless headlines and ballooning nationalism, but this anger walks hand-in-hand with nostalgia for a Fleet Street lost and the production can’t always square the two. It is also problematic in how it treats its younger characters, as one-note careerists, vapid, entitled.

Higgins gives a rich, rounded performance as Verity, and Hicks a deliciously overblown one as Morris, but the play’s more sinister elements get diluted by its tendency towards caricature.

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Verdict
Newsroom satire with an undercurrent of urgency and anger
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