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Fake news spreads like a virus at Newbury's Corn Exchange




War of the Worlds
at the Corn Exchange
on Friday, September 10 and Saturday, September 11

Review by ROBIN STRAPP


We live in a digital world where news can instantly be seen on a mobile device or computer screen. But how reliable is the information we read online or in newspapers or indeed on television news? So, what is fake news?

Jess Mabel Jones, Gina Isaac, Matt Wells, Julian Spooner, photo: Jamie Macmillan
Jess Mabel Jones, Gina Isaac, Matt Wells, Julian Spooner, photo: Jamie Macmillan

These are questions that are posed in Rhum and Clay’s striking physical theatre production of The War of the Worlds. It’s a vibrant, passionate and challenging piece written by Isley Lynn and devised by the company.

Based on Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast in America that caused widespread panic among the population as they missed the opening few minutes of the programme’s introduction and believed that an alien invasion from Mars had indeed begun.

This realistic news broadcast, using the device of on-the-spot reporters and allegedly live coverage from Grover’s Mill - a small town in New Jersey, was totally believable to the US citizens. And hearing the words used in the radio play makes you realise how credible it would sound.

Gina Isaac, Matt Wells and Julian Spooner, phot: Iain Syme
Gina Isaac, Matt Wells and Julian Spooner, phot: Iain Syme

The versatile inventive cast, Gina Isaac, Jess Mabel Jones, Julian Spooner and Matt Wells bring a clever twist to this story as we move forward in time.

Ambitious young British reporter Meena is desperate to impress her radio station manager by finding real stories about real people.

Discovering a letter from her dead mother concerning her brother, she decides to travel to Grover’s Mill. It’s become a tourist attraction, including a memorial plaque commemorating the attack. She wants to explore the story of a 13-year-old girl who was abandoned by her panic-stricken relatives as they fled the town.

Meena meets an eccentric distantly related family and discovers a series of secrets, lies and conspiracy theories that is totally surprising. This included their college son Jonathan, who is secretly filling the internet with false news and propaganda that spreads like a virus and goes viral. But will these parallel events provide her with an elusive scoop she so desperately needs?

Jess Mabel Jones, Gina Isaac, Julian Spooner, Matt Wells, photograph Luke Forsythe
Jess Mabel Jones, Gina Isaac, Julian Spooner, Matt Wells, photograph Luke Forsythe

The set design (Bethany Well) recreates the radio studio with the stage manager’s box high up on the back of the stage. Semi-translucent screens and doors are used to great effect, with an old fashioned radio as the focal point. The dramatic lighting by Nick Flintoff and Pete Maxey greatly enhances the atmosphere.

Benjamin Grant’s powerful haunting soundscape and Iain Syme’s video effects impressively heightens the mood.

Co-directed by Hamish MacDougall and Julian Spooner this fast paced ensemble production showcases the dynamic skills of the actors who multi-role with verve.

This is a thought-provoking play that raises many questions about the thin line between today’s media truth and lies and the spin propagated by our politicians.



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