LIVE AT SIX
12/11/2013 - 16/11/2013
25/10/2013 - 26/10/2013
30/10/2013 - 31/10/2013
29/08/2013 - 31/08/2013
05/09/2013 - 21/09/2013
15/08/2013 - 18/08/2013
Script by Dean Hewison and Leon Wadham
Directed by Tim Spite
TRUTH IS OVERRATED
“A thriller in the making and breaking of news, it is a not-to-be-missed show” – Theatreview
“as intriguing as it is unusual… a fascinating piece of theatre” – Dominion Post
A show that uncovers the power broadcast media have over our perception of truth, and, in an age of smartphones, lets the audience get in on the action.
Set in the world of NZ television news, Live at Six is a comedy with a thriller edge. It tells the story of a news anchor, Jane Kenyon (played by Jess Robinson), whose life and career is rocked when footage of her (apparently) misbehaving at a party goes viral.
The story is out, and the race is on for both her network and the competition to package the footage and the story. Whose version will the public believe – and more importantly, whose will they tune in to?
What makes this production unique is the incorporation of on-the-night footage, and a very real deadline. Each performance begins as the ‘incident’ occurs in the foyer pre-show, captured by security cameras. Audience members can also use their smart phones to shoot the action and upload to the show crew.
As the story of journos, presenters and executives plays out on stage, the audience can also watch each network’s editors scrambling to cut the footage to fit their agenda. Interviews conducted with willing audience members in the interval add to both the story and the challenge for the editors.
At the end of the show, the audience sees both versions of the broadcast story, built with that night’s footage. Does either version match the ‘reality’ they witnessed two hours earlier?
Alongside the technical wizardry is a script full of wit and insight. The pressure cooker atmosphere of the newsroom tests loyalties and friendships both within and across the networks, and at the centre of it all, Jane Kenyon must face the nation.
Premiere season: 2009 STAB commission at BATS
2nd season: Downstage 2012
2013 tour schedule:
Taranaki Arts Festival:
Auckland (part of STAMP):
Lower NZI, Aotea Centre
Jane Kenyon: Jessica Robinson
Karen Adams: Donogh Rees
Tim McGregor: John Landreth
Sam Sweeney: Eli Kent
Tania Nelson: Lucinda Hare
Sue Austin: Carmel McGlone
Derek Fontaine: Martyn Wood
Gordon Miller: Jonathan Brugh
Fraser Higginson: Barnaby Fredric
Nicole: Tai Berdinner-Blades
Ian Harris: Phil Grieve
Lyndsay Thompson: Richard Falkner
Ruth Easterman: Lyndee-Jane Rutherford
Belinda Johnson: Jude Gibson
Dr Pullman: Matt Chamberlain
Alyssa: Adrianne Roberts
Producer: Adrianne Roberts
Lighting Design: Marcus McShane
Set Design: Tim Spite
Sound Design: Richard Falkner
Technology Design/Operator: Johann Nortje
Production Manager/Operator: Tom Beauchamp
Assistant Producer: Emma White
Stage Manager: Lucinda Hare
Production Assistant: Cara Louise
A contemporary blast of intelligent and entertaining satire
Review by Paul Simei-Barton 14th Nov 2013
The rise of digital media presents a challenge to live drama that has been met by a number of recent shows which make digital technology an essential part of the theatre experience.
Live at Six is a finely crafted satire on the rapidly evolving relationship between social media and news services.
Audience members are encouraged to send in tweets and video clips of a celebrity meltdown that occurs in the foyer just before the shows starts. As the story unfolds, this material is processed in the newsrooms of rival TV channels and fed back to us on giant projection screens. [More]
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Not the Six O'Clock News... but close enough
Review by James Wenley 14th Nov 2013
Recall when Judy “Mother of the Nation” Bailey had to read the auto-cue about herself on the six o’clock news when her pay packet became a top news story? That’s one way to respond when the newsreaders become the newsmakers: continue on as normal.
Now imagine if Judy Bailey had made a (seemingly) drunken spectacle of herself at an industry awards night and it had all been caught on multiple cameras. Or perhaps imagine it happening to that nice Wendy Petrie. That’s the real-world equivalent of the premise of Live at Six, when One News anchor Jane “face of the nation” Kenyon (Jessica Robinson) is caught out, and faces the spectre of going live to the nation on the topic of her embarrassment. At One News, the network execs go into overdrive to protect their star asset. Over at Three News, they salivate about bringing down their government funded rivals. [More]
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You will not watch the news with the same confidence ever again
Review by Johnny Givins 13th Nov 2013
Live at Six is an entertaining, technological complex and modern piece of New Zealand theatre that will thrill audiences. It also has a great updated and refreshed script by Dean Hewison and Leon Wadham.
Based in the News rooms of TV ONE and TV3, Live at Six follows the action as the news team put together the lead story for the 6 o’clock news. I think it is meant to be a satire, however it is so full truth about the sad state of what was once the pinnacle of broadcasting that its more an intriguing drama with lots of laughs.
The special quality of this show is the use of technology and the power of the acting.
First of all there is an ‘event’ in the foyer. A woman is out of control and falls over and is escorted from the event. The audience is asked to use their phones to record the event and send the footage to the liveatsix2013 email address. This footage is then integrated into the on screen performance in the theatre.
I saw actor’s agents, TV personalities, executives, and a wide range of young people live on the big screens which dominate the stage. It was a hoot. “Be part of the action.” During the show you are invited to send in your Twitter, Vine and Facebook comments live! What’s more they come up on the screens (make sure your phone is on silent!).
The set design by Tim Spite (who also does a great job directing) is clean function and effective. There are two huge screens at the back of the raised set with two news anchor desks: TV ONE and TV3. Most intriguing is the two broadcast quality editing suites on either side of the stage, with a huge white table in the centre. Most impressive is that it all appears to be live-operated by the actors! Screens flash up as we see the Facebook pages, the Twitter messages, interviews, live cameras outside TVNZ and the raw footage of the story and the News programme.
The story is centred around the unfortunate collapse of our much loved TV ONE newsreader Jane Kenyon (Jessica Robinson) at the media awards (the foyer). The next morning, as the footage had been widely circulated on Facebook, both networks debate how to deal with it: make the event into a story or try and avoid it.
Jessica Robinson is wonderful as the “sister to the nation”. She looks right, sounds right and is totally believable as she struggles, revealing the pressure of being judged every night by the viewer.
You may remember the time when people believed in the news! Live at Six skewers the depressing and disappointing standards which have guided our news programmes in the last 10 years. There are lots of reasons for the decline in journalistic standards on TV: competition between the networks; pressure to be first, to gather the largest audience for the advertisers; the pressure for pictures; the fear of losing the audience with too much information; the pursuit of emotion over fact; the desire to entertain not inform. More importantly, the undermining of ‘TRUTH’.
Live at Six develops as both news teams use all the modern media available to find/make up an important story. It’s all about the ‘spin’ of the story. Two very clever characters – Sam Sweeney (Eli Kent) at TV ONE and Fraser Higginson at TV3 (Barnaby Fredric) – are the editors. It is fascinating to watch these two work the avid keyboards and interact with the rest of the team. They are not satirising the role of the editor. Let me tell you, from my TV experiences that is how news editor really can be like! They are cynical, irreverent, sly, complex nerds and very funny.
Striding the stage like two news divas, TV ONE’s Karen Adams (Donogh Rees) and TV3’s Sue Austin (Carmel McGlone) are the powerhouses of the show. Both relish the authority, and sheer command of the roles as well as the stage. It is great to witness these two icons of stage and screen just going for it!
However, standards are not given away entirely in this battle for the 6pm audience. Tim McGregor (John Landreth) is the old school TVNZ journalist News Editor who has the integrity long lost in the marketing-led, profit-conscious company that now runs our publically owned network. John Landreth is totally believable for his passion, intellect and concern for the evolving real story that is uncovered.
Caught in the middle is TV3’s Derek Fontaine (Martyn Wood). He is/was involved with Jane Kenyon and the man who actually rescued her in the foyer. As the secrets and intrigue evolve, Fontaine travels from intelligent caring mature professional, to almost childlike, petulant, liar and cheat. Corruption eats at his soul. Pity because I liked him!
Live at Six is a comedy and Gordon Miller (Jonathan Brugh) brings lots of character quirks to satirising the self-centred, insensitive news reader who is a real prick. Brugh relishes his role and gets great reactions.
There are also wonderful cameo performances in the ‘recorded cast’, the best ones for me being Judy Gibson as Head of News for TV One, Belinda Johnson, and Phil Grieve as media expert, Ian Harris.
I won’t let you in on the turns and revelations of the story. Go find out and witness how this news story is put together. You will not watch the news with the same confidence ever again.
Show Pony’s Live at Six was originally performed at BATS Theatre in the 2009 STAB Season, remounted at Downstage in 2012 and has been revived to do this national tour. I understand it’s been a great success in the various provincial festivals this winter. It’s only here at Aotea Centre until Saturday. It’s great to see another Wellington stage production with such good actors, design and a great script in Auckland.
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Heights of hilarity from dubious depths
Review by Tony Wall 03rd Nov 2013
Journalists’ egos are at the centre of this hilarious interactive play, which is so on the money it makes for some squirmingly awkward moments for the reporters in the audience.
No better example of that comes before the show starts. I am standing in the foyer with another newspaper journalist (who shall remain nameless) chatting away about industry gossip (as you do).
We are aware that ‘Jane Kenyon’, the main character, will be coming through in a drunk state, and we should try to film her, so we have our i-phones ready.
Suddenly a stunning blond woman in heavy makeup approaches my companion and says, “Congratulations on the award.’’
His head growing several sizes bigger, my mate mutters, “Thanks,’’ as the blond bombshell disappears.
“Who was that?’’ I ask. “No idea,’’ he replies. We assume she was referring to an award he won at the Canon Media Awards six months earlier – as if beautiful women are always coming up to congratulate him – and go back to our conversation, still looking out for ‘Jane Kenyon’.
It’s not until we are comfortably seated in the theatre and the actors have taken the stage that we click. There is the stunning blond (played by Jessica Robinson) and the premise of the play is that she has collapsed and made a fool of herself at a television awards ceremony. That explains the “congratulations’’ to my mate.
We look at each other and burst out laughing – and virtually don’t stop until the show ends 90 minutes later. Sometimes working in a newsroom, you forget how ridiculous your craft can be.
This play, by award-winning writers Dean Hewison and Leon Wadham and directed by Tim Spite, portrays life in the newsroom – equal parts excitement and farce (with a little bit of tragedy thrown in) – to perfection.
The clever thing about Live at Six is how it uses modern technology to involve the audience. Footage captured by audience members in the foyer is sent to an email address and used in the show, along with footage by a professional cameraman.
It allows the audience to engage with the show, even if they are unfamiliar with what goes on behind the scenes of television news.
The premise is that TVNZ and TV3 are racing to be first with the ‘story’ of Kenyon’s drunken (or drugged?) demise and that includes some rather dubious ethical decisions to get hold of footage.
You might think that collapsing drunk at an in-house awards event would not make the news, but I can assure you most news organisations have, at some time or another, sunk to those depths.
As if to remind us of such, a news bulletin read by over-the-top TV3 anchor Gordon Millar (Spite) includes a piece on the Len Brown affair. “Meanwhile Luigi Wewege has been spotted in Fiji disguised as a Bee Gee.’’
That’s the brilliance of Live at Six: it can be updated to include relevant events, ensuring it will never grow dull.
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Provokes much thought about theatre, technology, the world
Review by Gin Mabey 31st Oct 2013
Live at Six, by writers Leon Wadham and Dean Hewison, was performed at Tauranga’s Baycourt Theatre last night.
The show leaves me deep in thought about my own expectations, definitions and assumptions about ‘what theatre is’ – and I will be pondering this grand question for a long time: a great way to leave a show, even if my feelings about the show are mixed and my enjoyment varied.
You walk into the space and what you see is both very familiar and very strange at the same time. The newsroom desks with TVNZ and 3 News logos are familiar; the desks on either side of the stage set up with computers are familiar… but to see all of this technology and our nightly news brands in a theatre setting? This is a simple yet strange mix of realms, which is exciting at first.
Much like an opening sequence of a film, the show opens with two large projector screens displaying various social media images and video footage of a young woman tripping over, clearly off her face, with slanderous headlines… We soon learn that this is Jane Kenyon, the “God daughter of the nation”, the most watched news presenter, young pretty, successful. The show is immediately modern in language, social tools and how we receive our information.
The previous night has seen Kenyon shaming herself at an industry party, under the influence. The cool thing about this is that the scenes being shown are scenes from the venue where we sit! This is where the audience comes into play; they have filmed Kenyon’s shameful display before the show and have emailed the footage to the crew/cast, where it is compiled by two actors playing the news editors.
There are more instances of audience/tech use but I won’t give those away. For a technology-idiot like me who wouldn’t even know how to use an iPhone, the fast use of technology throughout the show is very impressive indeed.
Fast-talking, whip-cracking characters burst into play, from both Kenyon’s party and the opposition. Carmel McGlone, playing Sue from 3 News, is a pleasure to watch, she has that satisfyingly ‘Kiwi’ way of pronouncing curse words that never gets old; she’s a great entertainer and my instant favourite character to watch.
Eli Kent has a magical ease and candidness to his acting. He reminds me ever so slightly of Stephen Merchant when he first comes out – he has a distinctly modern way of delivering his banter.
Kenyon herself, played by Jessica Robinson, is almost irrelevant to the other characters. Her error is their prize or their downfall, depending on who is concerned, but Kenyon herself is left to wander about, feeling regretful and guilty, helpless and fearful for her hard-earned career. This is the most organically human aspect of the show.
There are moments in the show where I find myself thinking, “This would be just as effective on TV – I don’t see the theatricality of the show as being an asset to the story.” I don’t mean this as a slander against the show – the acting is fabulous, the writing is quick and clever – but I am left feeling a bit cold, deflated almost, and lacking a sense of ‘theatre’, whatever that means; a heightened sense of something? A withdrawal from the technology for a moment?
Could this be my own distance from modern technology that is dictating this response? Could it be my sentimental expectation of theatre to heighten and exaggerate, provoke and challenge me in an organic way through organic methods? Most likely.
It could be the very point of the show is that the technological aspects – objects and sounds – work alongside the actors’ bodies, voices and emotions with as much of a starring role as they do to the point where they numb the humanity of the situation within the show and the experience of the show, as indeed, it is this very technology which has destroyed Kenyon (aside from substances of course). After all if there were no iPhones, no YouTube, no hideous Facebook then her plight could only have been exacerbated by word and mouth. Her image has been ruined by an image.
These are fascinating ideas that I am thinking about after the show, but during … I can’t seem to connect to the experience at hand. I see TVs, computers, phones… all of that, every day; it doesn’t seem to excite me to see it in a different context… in a theatre… but should it? I don’t know. But I certainly don’t want to suggest that theatre must stay traditional, keeping the gadgets and zip-zaps out of it; no way do I think that. This show is reflecting the way we receive, process, manipulate information, and ultimately, people – which is the biggest change our generation, and maybe the human race has experienced. And they have shown the specifics of this so accurately, I have to applaud it.
Even though the actors are right there, I miss them; I can’t quite feel them and am separated from them. This is how I feel when I see someone staring at Facebook or their phone… Oh! Is that the point? If so, then it certainly got me.
I am wondering how the experience of this show would vary across a range of ages.
After all of this jibber-jabber, I still have no idea what my opinion of this show is … Actually no, that’s wrong: the show was great. I don’t know what my opinions are concerning theatre, technology, the world – and this show has made me ponder these things. How fantastic is that?! And for this, I am so very glad to have seen it.
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Instant news, belly-laugh humour and well-aimed satire
Review by Melanie Stewart 26th Oct 2013
As you enter the foyer of Nelson’s Theatre Royal the air of anticipation is obvious. Having read the Arts Festival blurb, most people are waiting with cell phone cameras ready for the ‘incident’ that is about to occur and they are not disappointed. As a women drunkenly makes her way through the foyer, stumbles and falls, she is helped outside by a smartly dressed young man. Video footage and photographs of the unfortunate women are taken to send to an email address provided for us in the programme.
After entering the theatre the story unfolds. It appears the drunken woman is none other than Jane Kenyon, TVNZ’s leading news anchor. Her indiscretion now threatens her career as evidence of it is splashed all over Facebook. TVNZ goes into damage control to try and save their reputation while TV3 sees an opportunity to discredit their rivals.
Video footage caught by the audience is used by both stations as we are encouraged to put our material and comments on Facebook and Twitter. Images captured by their roving cameraman are also used as the stations’ respective editors, Sam (Eli Kent) and Fraser (Barnaby Fredric), work tirelessly on their computers to finish the footage for the night’s news.
What results is non-stop entertainment. The show provides a mixture of belly-laugh humour and well-aimed satire. The glimpse we see of the cut throat and somewhat cynical world of TV news leaves us hoping the scenario is just a portrait of the worst characteristics in the industry. However, comments such as “Don’t worry mate it’s just the news, it’s not real,” have a glimmer of familiarity.
Tim (John Landreth) has a believability to him that I feel gains him empathy in an otherwise harsh environment. All the cast carries their roles well and create a riveting impression of a fast-paced, frantic newsroom on a tight deadline. Standout performances for me are Kent and Fredric, whose witty one-liners and impeccable comic timing (often improvised) make for much of the humour.
This was a fantastic end to a busy week. The Nelson Arts Festival has produced a plethora of outstanding performances. Live at Six certainly ranks amongst the best.
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Topical, tight with sleek presentation
Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 10th Sep 2013
The late Sir David Frost once said that television enables you to be entertained in your home by people you wouldn’t have in your home. You certainly wouldn’t invite the Machiavellian lot presenting the news at TV1 News and 3News as depicted in Live at Six.
This interactive satirical comedy has come a long way since its first production at Bats in 2009. The script is topical and tighter and the sleek presentation is impressively high tech (Johann Nortje).
The audience is invited to contribute too in the making of the news item even before the play starts. We can post videos, tweets, and photos of an event in the bar that becomes the major news item of the night as the two newsrooms battle it out to get their version of the truth.
These amateur videos can be integrated into the show by each channel’s geek (Eli Kent, Barnaby Frederic) who beavers away at a computer at the side of the stage. We can talk about the events on Facebook, Twitter and Vine during the show but we are asked to keep our phones on silent.
On the other hand you can ignore all this and simply watch what happens when TV 1News’ Jane Kenyon (Jessica Robinson), the award-winning- news-reader-mother-of-the-nation, is shown on Facebook off her face at a media award ceremony, and 3 News has got hold of it.
TV 1 goes into damage control, while TV3 relishes the schadenfreude and digs away for more dirt, after all “It’s only news. It’s not real.” Personal relationships at work and home are sacrificed for the sake of the best angle and any sense of morality at any point is quickly suppressed.
The cynicism displayed is tempered by some very funny sequences (a mock news story created by one of the geeks) and some delicious comedy from Tim Spite as a pompous TV3 news reader swatting flies with a magazine with himself on the cover and when he rehearses his meaningful nods for the camera.
A polished and entertaining satire.
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A splendidly successful play of ideas and personalities in a whirling moral universe
Review by Michael Gilchrist 07th Sep 2013
“The spectacle is not a collection of images – rather it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.” So wrote Guy Debord in ‘The Society of the Spectacle’, all those years ago in 1967. It has taken 45 years but, quite suddenly and alarmingly, that society is upon us.
The News of the World phone hacking scandal, Edward Snowden, the egregious GCSB Bill and our own Peter Dunne – a man who is officially the shadow of his image – have all made us realise that our private lives are in some new way social lives, and our social lives are in some new way irreducibly, if not yet completely, mediated.
We are all doubled, we are all split. The old unities of thought and word, word and deed, deed and consequence are gone. We used to have to live with ourselves; now we have to live with our ‘selfie’. Our lives are transparent to others in ways that are translucent to ourselves.
What better setting in which to examine this dilemma than a TV newsroom? As the play opens, TV1 News anchor Jane Kenyon (Jessica Robinson) has made a Spectacle of herself at a media function. What actually happened? There are as many answers to that question as there are smartphones, security cameras, news cameras and good, old fashioned news angles. And so we enter the whirling moral universe of Live at Six.
TV1 and TV3, distinguished only by the blue and red colourations of their respective clothing and studios, become locked in a battle to discredit each other over the incident. Like Spy White and Spy Black their motives are obscure and their ethics irrelevant. The contest for image and reputation is all. Many humorous observations, farcical twists and pointed confusions follow in what is a splendidly successful play of ideas and personalities.
The action unfolds as much through video clips and internet feeds as it does live on stage, creating a genuinely contemporary multi-media experience. In this respect alone, this joint production by Downstage and Show Pony is worth seeing.
The integration of media – including input from the audience – is seamless, frequently hilarious and always serves the action brilliantly. Special mention should be made in this respect of all the extensive production team, including technology designer Johann Nortje. The script, by Dean Hewison and Leon Wadham, who have some notable experience in writing for television as well as theatre, is simply excellent. It is always surefooted, especially in its inclusion of recorded elements, very funny, frequently insightful, has lots of deft characterisation and is satisfyingly structured. Not to mention, up to date.
Given great material, the cast and director make the most of it. Director Tim Spite also designed the set and plays the key role of rival news anchor, Gordon Miller. He does a wonderful job of the last of these, with his character becoming ever funnier as the play progresses.
Since it is the critic’s job to find fault I would say that while the set works very well, I’m not sure that the central plinth like table, which also serves as a rostrum at times, is exactly right. There is a certain amount of bestriding the stage that it seems to require from some characters – the very characters, of course, who imagine that they bestride the media scene – while others are kept at the margin.
Most notable among the latter are the editors for the rival newsrooms, Sam and Fraser. The irony is that these backroom boys are genuinely, deviously influential. They have their own idiolect, their own connections and their own trade secrets. The observed relationship between these characters and the traditional powerbrokers is one of the great things about this script. These are characters with real legs, despite being confined to their chairs, and both are played pitch-perfect by Eii Kent and Barnaby Frederic respectively.
The contrast between those characters occupying centre stage and those on the fringes is appropriate but at times there seems also to be a contrast in acting styles that might be eased by the direction. The entire cast nevertheless give excellent performances, with some experienced performers fully living up to their reputations in a richly textured ensemble display. Tim Spite’s achievement in all aspects of this production is also impressive.
In terms of the script my only thoughts are that an additional plot point earlier in the piece would not go astray. Things kick on well when the turn comes late in the first half but the plot could thicken a little earlier too. Also I thought the profanity could be a bit more inventive and well, profane. Swearing seems to be a bit like children and animals onstage. It tends to grab attention and so needs to be suitably whole hearted and expressive.
This is nit-picking though. Live at Six is in the middle of a national tour and should be a roaring success. It is smart, accessible, immensely enjoyable contemporary theatre that helps us understand who we are and what we are doing as a society.
“O would some Power the giftie give us / To see ourselves as others see us!” Back in the day, that seemed a pretty safe moral sentiment. “Be careful what you wish for,” this play seems to add.
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Lively, well-paced and delivered with wit and precision
Review by Erin Harrington 30th Aug 2013
When award-winning TV1 news anchor Jane Kenyon (Jessica Robinson) is filmed in a state of drunken – or drug-addled – distress after an awards ceremony, she finds herself making the news instead of presenting it. Looking for a cheap shot, the vultures – in this case, TV3 – start to circle.
On Jane’s side is her boss, gruff, old school newsman Tim (John Landreth), while fresh face Tania (Lucinda Hare) hangs in the wings, waiting for an opportunity for promotion. Karen (Donogh Rees), a hardnosed fixer, is sent down from Corporate Affairs, but her ethics are slippery at best.
In the opposing team is bloodthirsty TV3 news boss Sue (Carmel McGlone), boorish news anchor Gordon (Jonathan Brugh), and ex TV1 journo Derek (Martyn Wood), who doesn’t really have the stomach for character assassination. Bridging the divide are geeky editors (and frenemies), TV1’s Sam (Eli Kent) and TV3’s Fraser (Barnaby Fredric), who are at home with the technology but are less adept at politicking.
The competing newsrooms engage in threats, lies, picketing and gutter journalism as they try to capitalise on Jane’s sloppy night out. The characters navigate the perils of being married to the job and the ubiquity of digital media, the tension between ‘real news’ (should there be such a thing) and tabloid muck-raking, the cult of personality and the pitfalls of self-promotion, and the cultural divide between Auckland and the “coat-wearing provinces”.
Meanwhile, we watch as each network spins and crafts its own version of the story as the 6 o’clock deadline looms. Live at Six is nightly news as blood-sport, and the climax of the extremely entertaining stoush is both unexpected and deeply satisfying.
The deployment of audio-visual components – designed and operated by Richard Faulkner and Johann Nortje, and operated by Nortje and Tom Beauchamp – is extraordinarily impressive. Audience members are encouraged to film Jane’s messy episode pre-show, and to tweet throughout the performance. Footage and interviews filmed pre-show and during the interval are edited in real time by Sam and Fraser on stage and combined with pre-recorded footage, and the result is sleek and professional. These two, more than anyone else, seem aware of the disturbingly slippery nature of their job: “It’s only the news”, says Fraser. “It’s not real.”
Dean Hewison and Leon Wadham’s script is economical, well-researched and sharp. Beyond the ambitious tech, Live at Six succeeds because it is a keenly drawn, relationship-driven ensemble piece. The character dynamics, shifting alliances and competing egos are expressed with precision and alacrity, and the gloriously barbed bon mots never pander to the audience.
The set design, by director Tim Spite, is clean, simple and spacious. A shared boardroom table sits in the centre, and edit suites mirror one another at each end of the stage, emphasising the similarities of each newsroom. Behind identical raised news desks, two large screens sit upstage. These oversee the action – an ever-present reminder of the impending news bulletin, as well a blank-faced proxy for the hunger of the news audience. The whispers and giggles of audience members as they see themselves on screen mark us as complicit in the 24 hour news cycle and the bear-baiting going on onstage.
Marcus McShane’s lighting design emphasises a boxing metaphor, with TV1 and TV3 in the blue and the red corners respectively. This division is further reflected in the costumes.
Live at Six is lively, well-paced and delivered with wit and precision, and it’s a credit to its creators and performers.
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Funny, clever and witty satire
Review by Victoria Kerr 16th Aug 2013
Television news is the villain and truth its victim when rival television news stations and a celebrity news anchor are caught in an apparent scandal.
A funny, uncompromising and cynical presentation of the modern media age, Hewsion and Wadham’s New Zealand satire exposes the harsh realities of the unscrupulous nature of modern news broadcasting in the age of the internet and immediate ‘reporting’ with some sublime and ridiculous one-liners such as, “Who said news has to be intelligent?” and, “If I was your missus, I’d make you a serious quiche.”
Ethics, morality and friendships are all compromised, indeed sacrificed, in the pursuit of the top story. And as the old adage goes, ‘Why let truth get in the way of a good story?’
The audience is invited to be involved in the play even before it takes to the stage as actors intermingle with us in the foyer. We are also encouraged to post footage and talk about Live at Six on Facebook, Twitter and Vine during the show. The footage, tweets and posts are integrated into the show much to the delight of members of the audience who recognise themselves and become part of the drama, much like modern news media where ordinary people become part of the story or even reporters. In this immediate communication age, news and drama are no longer restricted to the ‘professionals’.
We watch as both One News and TV3 battle it out to get the best story. Jane Kenyon (Jessica Robinson) is the compromised and publicly beloved TV One news anchor involved in a drink and possible drug scandal at a media awards evening. It is her ‘story’ that is pursued.
The stage set, designed by director Tim Spite, is cleverly utilised to show the extreme competitiveness of both broadcasters with the rival news stations played side by side. The boundaries of both set and ethics are blurred when actors cross sides, dialogue and space. Use of large screens and technology allow the audience to see the ‘news’ unfold in real time. Even the odd moment of tentative intimacy is allowed for.
It is interesting and a little disconcerting to see, in a post-feminist age, that the battle is commanded by two hard-nosed women broadcasters who are unscrupulous in their pursuit of the ‘story’. Both roles are played with force and chilling sociopathy by Carmel McGlone and Donogh Rees. Their foils are a young male reporter, Derek Fontaine (Martyn Wood) and older male producer, Tim McGregor (John Landreth), who succumb to their machinations.
Don’t misunderstand me – this is not a dark production but a funny, clever and witty satire ably acted by all.
The ‘geeks’ (Eli Kent and Barnaby Frederic) of the broadcasting industry, at least as portrayed here, are the news editors of both shows who frame the action with their own acts of deviousness and also willingly compromise relationships and friendships.
Personal relationships are sacrificed in the pursuit of the story. No character is immune to betrayal and manipulation. This is perhaps the flaw of the play: whilst it is entertaining and intelligent, it is hard to empathise with any of the characters.
The TV3 news anchor, Gordon Miller (Jonathan Brugh) is wonderfully inept and perhaps sums up the true vicarious, ridiculous and fickle nature of news.
Reality and truth are presented here as the victims of an age of communication and broadcasting which pursues immediacy, celebrity and infamy with little respect for the ‘true story’ or the impact on individuals. This is heightened by a clever plot twist. You know one is coming but you do not see the spin until it happens.
We are reminded that words and actions are manipulated in the pursuit of the best story. Remember, “It’s only the news; it’s not real.”
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