In The News, If It Bleeds, It Leads
Either that got your attention or you're
rolling your eyes, waiting to be told something new. It's
precisely that search for sensationalism among an increasingly
desensitized press and audience that lies at the heart of
writer-director Helen Nelder's latest play which is on at
New Venture Theatre until 20th November .
Set amid an unknown conflict in an unnamed
country, the plot focuses on John (Jim Polkey-Calderwood),
a war photographer suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
out for one last assignment, and his relationship with Beth
(Red Gray), the director of a humanitarian aid camp.
While love blossoms amid the cluster bombs,
John is torn between the call of his job - as personified
by fellow snapper and gung-ho war junkie AK - and his own
shell-shocked inner demons.
An engaging mix of video footage, physical
tableaux and realism, the play takes us from devastated village
to press briefing to jaded TV viewer, and most points in between,
and raises questions about what exactly it takes for an event
to be newsworthy.
Victims are used to advance the careers of
TV reporters; photojournalists behave like a marauding sexual
army among the locals; John may keep his job by going to the
front but he risks losing his mind - and his soul - in pursuit
of a story. Meanwhile, government press officers make disingenuous
claims about "acceptable" levels of casualties in
front of snoring journalists.
Generally speaking, the old fourth estate
gets a bit of a kicking. However, given the concern over "embedded"
journalism in the recent Gulf War and the battle between Beeb
and Labour over the reporting methods of Andrew Gilligan,
there has probably never been a more appropriate moment to
question the methods and motivations of journalists in times
Developed in workshop by her highly talented
cast, and then written by Nelder in three weeks, this is a
raw, passionate piece of work saved by its sense of black
humour from toppling into an abyss of over-sincerity.
As with all good fringe work, you'll be provoked,
either mentally or emotionally. Or both. Whether you'll ever
believe what you read or see again - well, that's another
Virtual Brighton Magazine