‘Quiz’ review – James Graham’s ‘coughing major’ play explores justice in a post-truth era

James Graham’s latest play Quiz is one of binary oppositions. At its heart, audience members tackle the question of whether ‘coughing major’ Charles Ingram was guilty or not guilty of cheating on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, whilst also exploring truth versus falsehood, and showbiz versus justice.

Photo: Johan Persson.

No doubt a political playwright, Graham says the “curious overlapping of light entertainment with criminal justice” in the Ingram case became a “prominent theme” whilst working on the play. Yet this particular point feels lost in amongst the nostalgic, exaggerated and slightly excessive quiz presenter impressions by Keir Charles (although this portrayal was most likely deliberate), the brief media circus scenes, gimmicks in the court case and the audience pub quiz. Although a treat for hardcore gameshow fans, the connection is a weak one.

Perhaps the strongest point suggested by Graham is one around post-truth – a political concept surging in importance in a time of Trump and Brexit. As both acts explore different narratives in the trial before asking the audience to vote, confirmation bias and manipulation are thrust into the spotlight for the crowd’s scrutiny. In a time where we find ourself subscribing to different narratives and interpretations of the facts, the investigation of this through the courtroom is Graham’s strongest point.

Accompanying the thought-provoking writing are some great performances from the cast. Utopia‘s Gavin Spokes delivers an impressive performance as the eccentric major, Stephanie Street is a solid Diana Ingram and Greg Haiste plays a variety of roles with vibrancy. Sarah Woodward and Paul Bazely also give enthusiastic portrayals of the two lawyers involved in the trial.

Chuck all this in with audience participation and a fourth wall break, and you have a thrilling multi-media production that both investigates and challenges reality. Quiz is a must for big thinkers and gameshow fanatics.

Rating: 4/5

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Review: Mega Games with Tom Webb

On a quiet, peaceful September evening, I sat on a deckchair and listened to music. This was part of the Roundabout Festival – a collaboration between Paines Plough and the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre (LPAC) – and I was there to see Mega Games with Tom Webb.

The event itself was held in the Paines Plough Roundabout theatre which, on the outside, certainly looked intriguing. But when we were finally invited to enter the theatre itself, it was surprising to see how large the inside of the structure was. The theatre had a somewhat post-modern design (both inside and outside) and definitely gave off a friendly and homely atmosphere – perfect for Tom Webb’s Mega Games, a show with audience participation at its core.

As we entered the theatre, Tom greeted us before handing us a raffle ticket. Over the course of the evening, he would pull out two tickets and those two people would go head-to-head in a ‘mega game’. Admittedly, I wasn’t so keen on the audience participation aspect of the show (having a spotlight shined on me – with members of the audience all staring at me – can be a little nerve-wracking), but even if you weren’t selected, you could still get involved with the show.

For me, my type of audience participation is when I can blend in with the rest of the crowd. With games such as Mega Basketball and Appleships, those in the audience were given tasks such as creating a basketball hoop with their hands and revealing whether they own an Apple smartphone or not.Aside from the games itself, Tom Webb also did well to add to the silliness of the show itself. When ‘mega gamers’ made their way to the stage, Tom was quick to welcome them to the game and thank them for coming before delivering his own brand of comedy. With Tom creating jokes based on audience members, there was definitely a strong sense of involvement and audience participation – something which made the show interesting and unique.

Then, as the show reached its conclusion, Tom opened the games up to the entire audience by challenging us all to a game of Mega Rock, Paper, Scissors. The evening ended with the top scoring ‘mega gamers’ playing Human Hungry Hippos, where they had to be the first to eat a handful of Skittles out of another person’s hand – certainly a bizarre and silly end to a rather funny evening.

Combining witty humour with silly games and a little bit of nostalgia, Mega Games with Tom Webb is an immersive, mock comedy game show which promises a good laugh alongside light-hearted gaming. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Liam