Review Roundup: Richard Bean's GREAT BRITAIN

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Review Roundup: Richard Bean's GREAT BRITAIN

GREAT BRITAIN, a new play by Richard Bean, directed byNicholas Hytner, opened at the National's Lyttelton Theatre on Monday 30 June. Let's see what the critics had to say:

Paul Taylor of the Independent: Does it live up to its unusual occasion? By and large, yes. This is laughter-making on an industrial scale (to adapt a phrase) and it's a farce with fangs. The play puts the whole incestuous culture back in the dock and subjects it to merciless ridicule. Billie Piper is excellent as Paige Britain, the ambitious news editor of a red-top called The Free Press who learns about phone-hacking by an innocent informant. Pretty soon, she is blackmailing her way into positions of influence with the Met Police and with the leader of the Tory Party.

Henry Hitchings of the Evening Standard: Richard Bean's bracing new play... Billie Piper is thrillingly persuasive... Aaron Neil delights as jaw-droppingly dozy police commissioner Sully Kassam, while Oliver Chris is excellent as his suave deputy...Nicholas Hytner's production is pacy and busy. Giant video screens dominate Tim Hatley's design, relaying snippets from other papers - no prizes for recognising the Daily Wail or the Guardener - and as the images flash past we experience the fluidity of the news agenda as well as its limits. Bean's satire is deliberately grotesque. The cartoonish elements are richly enjoyable, laced with political incorrectness, yet they're interleaved with some altogether more subtle jokes. Even if the show feels a little too broad and could do with a trim, it's barbed, dense and very funny.

Michael Billingston of the Guardian: At the Free Press, the mission statement is "we go out and destroy other people's lives on your behalf". And, although it has a multimedia Irish proprietor and a foul-mouthed editor, the chief focus is on Paige Britain, its dynamic news editor who has little time for democracy and whose chief urge is to be part of the country's ruling elite.... But Bean is also keen to pin down what he sees as the corrupt chain that binds together press, police and politicians. Paige's zeal for a story leads her to enlist police help in nailing the supposed killer of two missing children and to work hand in glove with phone-hacking private investigators.

Dominic Cavendish of the Daily Telegraph: Best known for that runaway farcical hit One Man, Two Guvnors, Bean has been incensed by the intrusive, illegal carry-on in Fleet Street and the merry-go-round of cronyism and corruption that has shaken public faith in police and politics too. "20 people who talk to 20 people who talk to 20 people," is how he thinks the country has been run. He has penned a vitriolic, bluntly entertaining comedy that initially has the audience tickled pink with its levity, then finally blushing red with national shame.

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