BWW Review: DARK TOURISM, Park 90, October 1 2015

The blurb of Dark Tourism describes the - new - play as a "biting cultural satire". This play does not merely bite; the characters virtually maul one another, in this fantastic example of intelligent theatre fighting back against asinine reality "entertainment".

This production, though, is highly entertaining. Tom Maller and Huw Parmenter provide a raucous opening, exploding with energy as radio presenters Rob and Milton. Euphoric with their own hilarity, they overshare the details of Milton's sexual escapades with a well-known children's television presenter. Few are as amused as they. The subsequent PR crisis is only compounded by the presences of Gemma Stone, a (fading) reality star; Jennifer Chapman, an unsatisfied actress; and Caroline Briggs, the more terrifying kind of journalist. The lines between public and private, between real and artificial are debated and trampled upon as PR experts Richard Powell and Max Stafford strive to provide damage control - and as much publicity as possible.

This is very much an ensemble piece and the cast as a whole are unusually skilled. I have rarely, if ever, seen a cast of eight interesting and human characters all played with such authenticity. Josie Dunn is immensely likeable as presenter Becky Watson and Tamaryn Payne is an absolutely hilarious Gemma. Caroline is played beautifully by Rebecca Brewer and Jill Winternitz is - again - entirely believable as Jennifer. It just all rang very true. The current cast also includes the play's author, Daniel Dingsdale, as Max Stafford. In a play that relies heavily upon text and boasts a sophisticated script, Dingsdale's dual role is particularly impressive. A dictatorial, small man, Max stands out as one of the disturbingly plausible, darker forces of the play. Dingsdale's performance is bold, vehement and truthful - much like his play.

My only gripe is that the production sometimes needs a bigger theatre. This show is tackling huge ideas, which are of fundamental importance to theatre - though perhaps not addressed often enough, for fear of causing offence. Sometimes the script's big words crashed against the small theatre's walls. However, Adam Lenson's direction is superb; his net of people, relationships and stories is fascinating. Following on from his fantastic direction of the quirky musical See What I Wanna See, Lenson has again proven his aptitude for communicating significant concepts in a very human and effective way.

Love or hate our celebrity, reality "culture", this play is pertinent and thought-provoking. It probably speaks for thousands of actors, let alone frustrated viewers. I highly recommend this skilfully performed production, though expect it will be the first of many.

Dark Tourism runs at Park 90 until 24 October 2015 and contains some adult content.

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From This Author Liz Cearns