The cult of celebrity, fame for the sake of fame and manipulation by the media is something that has been dealt with a lot by TV and theatre lately so it was with some excitement that I went to the Lost Theatre to see what new angle Patrick Wilde’s new play Exposure could bring to the mix.
For the first few minutes, a back and forth about a footballer in a sex scandal we are quickly introduced to newspaper mogul Scott (Luke Stevenson as a sleazy James May) and PR supremo Rebecca (Georgina Morrell, all power dressing and pouting) So far so cliché.
But we soon get to the ordinary people of Danny and Sal, a young couple forced by economics to still live in a student-like flat share whilst dreaming of a better life and it’s here that the play takes off.
Thus begins an exploration of fame and the power of the media as Rebecca and Scott make a bet: that with just the magic of PR Rebecca can make anyone famous. And Danny with his dreams of being a comedy writer has just enough stars in his eyes to be her perfect victim.
Charlie Cussons plays the likeable but flawed Danny with an awkward charm while Robyn Hoedemaker is instantly likeable as the down to earth Sal, both of them unwitting victims as Danny is sold a dream and a poisoned chalice in one go, becoming a commodity to be bought and sold with no regard for the effect on his real personal life. Or regard for any talent, as he’s mis-sold as a ‘personality’ rather than for his writing, which is completely ignored.
Rounding out the cast and providing other perspectives are Yoko (played by Lisa Berry) a young hippy that doesn’t buy into the celeb thing and Ravi (George Lester) a young overly gay guy who definitely does. Here Wilde cleverly plays with our expectations and assumptions as the final betrayal, pleasingly comes from an unexpected source.
I say final. For Wilde loads a gun early in the piece that delivers a powerful end tableux.
Overlaying Danny’s struggle with fame, is the bet between Scott and Rebecca, a pact between two devils. But unfortunately there’s no real sense of what’s at stake for either of them. When the two actors have scenes together their dialogue is heightened and guarded. A definite acting choice one supposes but it creates a barrier that stops us understanding the humanity of the characters and thus feeling anything for them.
A shame since Georgina Morrell as Rebecca underpins the entire production and with a glimmer of humanity beneath the façade, she has the potential to win our hearts and tread all over them at once.
Director Oliver Jack’s staging is imaginative with stark white furniture and bare walls. A blank canvas onto which he projects images various celebs throughout. This back projection is inventively used several times during the production, showing us newspaper headlines, paparazzi shots of the characters and a touching photo album of Sal and Danny in less complicated times. It’s a relatively simple device that adds to what’s on stage, making the whole thing feel more televisual and accessible to a twitter age where all our information comes from a screen.
Some of the scene changes with their complex moving of blocks and chairs were a little over long and laboured but maybe with time these would become more slick and speedy.
The script is sharp and witty with plenty of one liners, but some of the cast may have been a little young to realistically deliver what was required. With more experienced hands in certain roles, there might be more balance in the story telling about whether our current media is a good or bad thing and still allow the script to have its voice.
That aside and whatever one’s own opinion of the ‘cult of celebrity’, Exposure is at its heart a very pleasing character piece that has a highly engaging story to tell.
EXPOSURE by Patrick Wilde
Lost Theatre 14th-18th Feb