Previewed 9 September 2014, Opened 26 September 2014, Closed 10 January 2015 at the Haymarket Theatre Royal in London
The National Theatre's production of Richard Bean's fast and furious new play Great Britain in London for a strictly limited season.
Richard Bean's play, written in response to the phone hacking scandal, centre's around Paige Britain, an ambitious young news editor of The Free Press, a tabloid newspaper that is locked in a never-ending battle for more readers.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner with designs by Tim Hatley, video design by 59 Productions, lighting by Neil Austin, music by Grant Olding and sound by Paul Arditti. Please note strong language from the start, recommended for ages 15 plus. This production transfers from the National Theatre following a successful season from July to August 2014..
When this production transferred to the Haymarket Theatre in September 2014, Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard said that in "Richard Bean's rollicking satire," Lucy Punch, who plays the newspaper editor Paige Britain, gives "a terrfically ballsy turn" adding that "Nicholas Hytner's production bounds along like the class clown, sticking two fingers - and often one - up at a range of targets." Paul Gent in the Daily Telegraph described it as being "a loud, rambunctious, fastmoving and foulmouthed entertainment packed with lurid characters and vulgar jokes" going on to say that, as the newspaper editor Paige Britain, "Lucy Punch makes her both ballsy and thoroughly unlikeable... in a slick staging by Nicholas Hytner involving sliding screens and a series of hilarious newspaper headlines." Kate Bassett in the Times highlighted that "Richard Bean comes up with dozens of explosively funny lines while carefully ensuring that no real-life public figure fully tallies with any of his characters. Nicholas Hytner's staging is revved up by whirling projected headlines and entertaining mashup videos. Robert Glenister is a ball of energy as a stupendously brash chief editor."
When this production originally opened in July 2014 at the National Theatre Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph said that "terrific acting and slick direction from Nicholas Hytner keep it motoring along. It's only in the darker second half, though that the show stops looking like a bold, topical summer filler and becomes required, conscience-pricking viewing." Neil Norman in the Daily Express highlighted that "directed by outgoing National Theatre supremo Nicholas Hytner it is a big enterprise. Moving screens show TV news reports while scenes change rapidly from the editorial offices to New Scotland Yard to a table at The Ivy. There are a few good jokes and the cast is terrific." Paul Taylor in the Independent wrote that "directed by Nicholas Hytner, the play weaves with terrific niftiness between politically incorrect humour and darker, more awkward questions." Dominic Maxwell in the Times thought that "there is a great play to be written about the unsavoury collusion between press, police and politicians over the past few years - but this bloated tabloid satire by Richard Bean is not it... In fact, there are quite a few nice ideas in here: Bean knows how to mock tabloid and broadsheet sensibilities... yet those laughs are spread thinly over almost three hours, including an interval." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail held that "the heaviness of the humour obscures much of the seriousness." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times said that "this is a big play, and Nicholas Hytner gives it one of his big productions, with huge video screens acting as stage "wipes" while showing mocked-up headlines and TV news clips." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard commented that "Richard 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."
"We are in 2005 and heartless hack Paige Britain sets out to play corrupt politicians and dodgy policemen as she bedhops and backstabs her way to the top. Clever use is made of the resulting headlines - which are projected on to huge screens. The jokes come at machine-gun speed, some hitting the mark more sharply than others... More of a comic romp than sophisticated satire, this an entertaining Establishment mockery." The Sunday Mirror
"Richard Bean takes a sledgehammer approach to the softest of targets, with the press, police and politicians all proving equally corrupt. The play is as trashy, testeless, cheaply sermonising and occasionally inspired as the tabloid on which it is based. Despite Nicholas Hytner's exuberant direction... it sinks beneath the weight of its own superficiality" The Sunday Express
"Into Billie Piper's killer heels steps Lucy Punch. She's an even scarier Paige Britain, the heartless, ruthless, tabloid news editor of The Free Press, who believes her job is to 'go out there and destroy other people's lives. On your behalf'. Just thinking about the chopped-up prostitutes she fills her pages with makes her feel horny. To Paige, phone-hacking is on a par with riding a bike without lights: it's what everyone does and mostly gets away with. It's a stonking performance matched by a magnificently revolting Robert Glenister as the filthy, frothing, old-style tabloid editor... Richard Bean nails the avarice, hypocrisy and immorality of the journalists and executives of The Free Press, which has the police and politicians in its grubby pocket. But he lets them get away with, if not murder, then prompting a suicide. He should have hung them out to dry." The Mail on Sunday
"Richard Bean's scurrilous and very funny new play is nothing if not topical. Only last week, the phone-hacking trial lurched to its end with just one person found guilty, at a cost of as much as £100m. And now here is an energetic burlesque of the whole sorry business, lovingly staged by our greatest comedy director, Nicholas Hytner, and set in the newspaper offices of a terrible red-top called The Free Press... This is no brilliantly penetrating study of the way we live now, but it is a colourful romp. Only in the caricatures does it get a little bogged down and heavy-handed, when it tries to be more serious than its treatment can manage." The Sunday Times
The play Great Britain in London at the Theatre Royal Haymarket Theatre previewed from 9 September 2014, opened on 26 September 2014 and closed on 10 January 2015.