REVIEW: Quiz on the Chichester stage: you'll talk about nothing else all the way home
Quiz at Chichester Festival Theatre is a) immensely entertaining b) surprisingly moving c) slickly and pacily staged or d) certain to have you talking about absolutely nothing else all the way home? Phone a friend? Ask the audience? Is that your final answer? Sorry, it’s actually a trick question. The answer, of course, is all of the above.
James Graham’s provocative, funny and hugely engaging play was a big hit in the Minerva six years ago; and while you might struggle to remember precisely the ways it has changed for its latest incarnation, there’s no doubting it has lost none of its ability to intrigue. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was hugely dramatic in itself. That’s why it was so successful. But throw in an alleged cheat and make that alleged cheat a seemingly decent and upright army major, and it’s the perfect recipe for a debate which shows no signs of abating more than 20 years later.
Charles Ingram, aka the Coughing Major, and his accomplices stood accused of duping the world’s most popular TV quiz show out of a million quid; before long they also stood convicted of doing so. And watch the first half of tonight’s show and you will be convinced that justice was served. We are even invited to vote on their guilt. The result was predictably and overwhelmingly guilty as tonight’s audience returned its verdict. But then the second half challenges that evidence, countering each indicator of guilt with possible suggestions of vagueness and/or manipulation. Soon your certainty of their guilt will start to wobble as the likelihood of their guilt comes face to face with the implausibility of it. And it is brilliantly done. So much so that you will end up doubting everything. Were we really, actually voting on those little remotes? Or were we too being manipulated? Who knows? Who cares? It was great fun – and also challenging and stimulating.
Rory Bremner (see interview) is our Chris Tarrant, and he’s flawless in the part – so much so that you soon stop thinking “This is Rory Bremner impersonating Chris Tarrant.” He actually seems to become him. Charley Webb as Diana Ingram and Lewis Reeves as Charles Ingram give similarly fine performances too, underlining just how much the couple lost in their a) failed plot or b) gross miscarriage of justice. Are we watching naivety and common decency? You do start to wonder? It’s a fine play finely balanced – and great to see it back.