WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Present day. Seaside town of South Peel. Newsroom of The Tyneside Times.
Editor-on-the-verge, Max, is tearing his hair out and sneaking shots of Teachers as newspaper sales continue to plummet. He bemoans the lack of news, diminishing readership, false news, ‘clickbaits’, ‘twitter-twatter’, Facebook, Face Time, face whatever… Good ‘ole fashioned print journalism’s losing its David and Goliath fight against the crushing digital tidal wave of the world wide web.
Knowing the sad truth of the old adage ‘bad news sells’, Max hopes that a good murder… or murders… will finally bring his readers back into the fold.
Five victims are reported missing – possibly dead. Mutilated body parts are found. A severed finger, and what may be a human ear, have been sent for forensic tests.
Is there really a serial killer on the prowl? Or is it a case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good news story? Will the harried Tyneside Times Editor give in to the lure of ‘false news’ to recoup readers, and, in doing so, save the paper?
Co-written by two people who really do know what they are talking about – former editor Rob Lawson (Sunderland Echo/ South Shields Gazette) and ex-journo Susan Wear (nominated for North East Writer of the Year 2016 for The Duke in The Cupboard).
WHO’S IN IT?
Micky Cochrane, Kylie Ann Ford, Christina Berriman Dawson, Andy Berriman and Gary Goodyear. They were all brilliant – and totally convincing in all of their roles – and they dealt admirably with a rather unruly member of the audience throwing the severed finger of one of the ‘murder’ victims back on to the stage.
Bandit, who plays news hound ‘Murdoch’, deserves special mention – this being his professional debut. A former champion-winning greyhound from Ireland, before being rehomed through the Retired Greyhound Trust, six-year-old Bandit has clearly found his second vocation in life.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT?
It’s very funny. I’m not a very LOL kind of person, preferring to chuckle inwardly, but I did find myself actually ‘Laughing Out Loud. And when I wasn’t LOLing, I was smiling. And I was not alone. Far from it. I was surrounded by laughter. Natural laughter. This was genuine chuckling, chortling, even the occasional snorting of laughter. And the reason for all this LOLing was a fast-paced, sharp, and very snappy script that was chock-a-block with comic irony, dark humour and one-liners.
Like many of the ‘clickbait’ (think sensationalist headlines, scandalmongering, photos of Jesus face in burnt toast) generation, my attention span, like the readership of The Tyneside Times, has diminished with age, so I was surprised to find myself totally engaged from the off.
Apart from getting what it said on the tin – ‘a comedy thriller with a twist’ – what made it for me was the BOGOF (two for the price of one) – for, spitting and bubbling alongside the humour was an insightful social, political, and economic commentary on the spiral dive of local newspapers, pushed to their depths by the world of social media and all things internet.
I could easily exceed the word count of this review by going on about how the play throws a much needed spotlight on the very relevant and important issues around journalistic ethics and integrity, the push and pull of fake news and the truth, arguments between old versus new, print vs digital, and, of course, grammar, but I’m not.
Just go and enjoy it on whatever level you want. At the very least you’ll come away with a smile on your face. What more can anyone ask for?
WHO SHOULD SEE IT?
The Tinder generation right up to your golden oldies.
WHEN IS IT ON?
Get a shifty on. Five Dead No Bodies at The Customs House, South Shields is only on until this Saturday (February 18).
customshouse.co.uk or call 0191 4541234