REVIEW: QUIZ (Noel Coward Theatre) ★★★★
A question to start off proceedings, spoken in a Chris Tarrant voice. Which James Graham play over the past two years has not been nominated for an Olivier?
A) This House
C) Labour Love
D was the correct answer, but this’ll probably change come this time next year.
We’re beginning to see a familiarity in James Graham’s framework in his playwriting. He’s able to write factually on specific moments in recent popular culture and bring out themes that are relevant to current society. In this case, Graham focuses on the 2001 ‘coughing’ scandal of the hit TV game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Graham focuses on the idea of manipulation and retelling of a story both in the media and in court and how justice can be resulted in a number of ways judging from the variety of perspectives that a story can be told.
Quiz unashamedly admits it is a theatre show and that this drama and need for justice is a form of entertainment to the audience and TV viewers. Quiz also takes references from gameshows and creates an immersive and interactive gameshow experience for all. Neon lighting comes from a huge circular lighting rig above the stage, and there are around ten to fifteen video screens around the auditorium for audience members to watch the games. At one point, everyone is also given cards and pens to compete in a pub quiz with their neighbours. British people love a quiz — even though we take these questions lightly, we all secretly want to do well and prove ourselves right.
What is also fully direct here is the script itself. Unlike previous plays I’ve seen of Graham’s, the structure is much more cohesive in Quiz with the first act setting the understanding and public facts for the prosecution and the second act rewriting the story from the perspective of contestants Major and Diana Ingram. The smooth framework and change of tone between the two acts provides the most cohesive experience I’ve had understanding a play of Graham’s.
In exception to a truly authentic performance of Chris Tarrant performed by Keir Charles, I wouldn’t say I was massively blown away by any of the other performances here emotionally. Then again, the text isn’t emotional. It’s factual, straightforward and forces the role of jury upon the audience twice. We get to decide if the defendants (Major and Diana Ingram) should be found guilty or not at the end of each act. It is testament to the quality of the acting that when the audience is asked this each time, there are two differing responses after each act and side of the story is told.
Highly entertaining, comedic and factual, Quiz is certainly not one to put on mute.
Reviewed by Barry O’Reilly
Photo: Johan Persson