Fallen reality TV stars, interviews gone wrong and prying tabloid journalists are just a few of the issues that PR gurus Richard and Max have to deal with on a daily basis. In a constant state of emergency with the reputations and fame of stars at stake, the last thing they need is the sex scandal between a DJ and a children’s TV presenter that soon gets blown out of proportion. When Richard’s struggling actress girlfriend gets sucked into it, they are forced to take on at least one side of the scandal, desperately trying to spin things around again.
Dark Tourism is addresses fame, yellow papers, social media and humans’ need for gossip. It shows, defends, and tears apart outrage culture. What makes this play special, however, is that whenever it runs the risk of becoming too preachy (“when is the last time you had a conversation without the other one checking their phone”), it quickly balances it out with a dramatic twist of events, humour, or tons of counter-arguments. Dark Tourism strives to present all aspects to a topic, which makes it a bit of an intellectual debate – only more entertaining. The central message appears to be: this is the culture we live in today, whether you like it or not – deal with it. But in these times where the news is fabricated and polished by the media, please do it with as much integrity as you can.
Sometimes the play could be a bit less shouty, as whoever yells loudest seems to win the argument, but the casting is exceptional and especially the women’s acting is mesmerising.
Rebecca Brewer is simply outstanding as sarcastic, cut-throat and brilliant journalist Caroline Briggs. Great are also the individual pairings, such as Damien Lyne and Jill Winternitz as intellectual, philosophical couple on the verge of existential crisis. Tamaryn Payne as daft starlet fallen from grace and Daniel Dinsdale as PR’s Gordon Ramsay provide much needed (but never out of place) comic relief. The rest of the performance is also stunningly thought-through and detailed. Anna Lewis’ beautiful costume design needs a mention, and even the scene transition choreographies by Polly Bennet add to the complex dynamics between characters.
The play draws amazingly complicated relationships and three dimensional, lifelike characters. The writing might not be flawless, but is never farfetched or boring, and incredibly immersive. Dialogues are top-notch and the play sucks you in right from the start. Every new fictional hour or tweet can turn things around completely. The interval break of this performance almost comes as a disappointment. Writer Daniel Dingsdale, who also plays Max Stafford, is a true master of words and narrative. Not all thoughts in Dark Tourism are new or a fresh take on current issues, but wow by being extraordinarily well-written. This is how you do new writing.
Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent
Photo: Oli Sones
Dark Tourism is playing at the Park Theatre until 24 October 2015. Click here for tickets