Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 7 October 2023
Was it a foolish plot to acquire one million pounds? Was it an attempt to defraud a television show? Or did they play fair? Quiz the play has arrived this week in Newcastle and it attempts to answer those questions.
As you arrive you are given a digital voting pad. Indeed there are some points of audience interactions. As an audience member you will be part of ask the audience and you will vote on the guilt of the accused.
The tale was an international news story back in 2001. The coughing major, Charles Ingram (Lewis Reeves) was appearing on the number one television quiz show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire". At the end of the first episode that he appeared on, Charles had struggled to reach £4000. He had used two of his lifelines as he lurched from one question to the next. As the overnighter, the producers did not expect him to last long on the next episode. The became suspicious. He behaviour did not match that of the other contestants. Something did not seem right.
The James Graham play looks at both the history of Charles, his wife Diana (Charley Webb) plus her brother Adrian Pollock (Jay Taylor) and it looks into the history of the programme. The simple format of multiple choice quiz questions that went on to be sold, as a format, all over the world. Even the US bought it.
The set is a hybrid between the studio and a courtroom. Two large screens help bring the action close up, showing how the tension could be directed. Indeed the lighting is intended to match the show at times.
In this play written by James Graham you essentially have two sides to the argument. The prosecution opens act one. It follows the line that was widely reported at the time. The audience then votes on how they felt at that stage.
Act two is the turn if the defence - indeed this was the half with the most humour. For example, the hugely talented Rory Bremner not only appear as the show's presenter Chris Tarrant, but he also makes a brief appearance as Coronation Street's Hilda Ogden.
The show is fast paced. Partly narrated by the two QCs: Danielle Henry as Sonia Woodley for the defence and Leo Wringer as Nicholas Hilliard for the prosecution. They keep the story flowing without overloading the audience with too much exposition. A hard working cast must be putting in some quick costume changes. Sukh Ojla, for example, appears as at least 7 characters - giving each one a different angle.
What was a nice final feature was that the recent audience votes are on the screens after the curtain calls. It is not as cut and dried as the red top newspapers suggested at the time.
Theatre is a natural fit for court room drama and this is no different. I really enjoyed this drama.It is great to see a part of our shared history appearing on stage.
Review: Stephen Oliver
Photos: Johan Persson
Quiz plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Wed 4 – Sat 7 Oct 2023. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.
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