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Quiz (Susan Elkin reviews)

Show: Quiz

Society: Chichester Festival Theatre (professional)

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre. Oaklands Way, Chichester PO19 6AP

Credits: By James Graham



3 stars


So James Graham’s 2017 play is back in its birthplace – except that it has grown and now fills the main house, Chichester Festval Theatre, having originally debuted in the smaller Minerva Theatre. Since then this story of the man who nearly tricked Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (or did he?) out of a million pounds in 2001 has enjoyed a West End run and been developed by James Graham into an ITV three-part drama. After Chichester it now embarks on a nationwide, ten-venue tour until the end of November.

It’s tightly, wittily written as you’d expect from Graham and the play is a mildly interesting exploration of the national obsession with quiz and game shows. Rory Bremmer is crowd-pleasingly plausible as  quiz master Chris Tarrant and  there are a number of cameo roles instantly recognised by the audience which trigger lots of laughter – thereby neatly reinforcing Graham’s point about the British love affair with such programmes. Nearly everyone in the room knows the format and remembers the long fraud trial at Southwark Crown Court.

Another crux of the show is the intercutting of the trial – just another form ot drama? – with re-enactments of “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” and scenes with Charles Ingram and his wife, the show’s producers and other characters. Flashing screens and the right music evoke the atmosphere although the badly synched close ups of contestant’s faces on screens don’t add anything useful. Moreover, at the performance I saw, a chunk of dialogue was repeated for no apparent reason so I presume it was someone’s momentary mistake with lines. Issuing the whole audience with fobs so that they can vote is quite fun, though.

So did Major Charles Ingram (Lewis Reeve), his wife Diana (Charley Webb)  and his brother-in-law devise some scheme using coughs as a signal to ensure that he got the questions right? The play raises doubts although in real life, as in the play, he was found guilty but his sentence suspended. Reeve gives us a young, apparently naïve Ingram and Webb makes Diana determinedly cannier –  a bit Macbethian without the knives. She knows the answers and coaches him because as a character in the play cynically observes these game shows have to focus on the popular culture that the middle classes know nothing about: soaps, pop music and sport.

Other characters are less convincing and the doubling is often confusing.  Although Danielle Henry is strong as Sonia Woodley QC, Mark Benton’s Judge Rivlin who several times drops into Trial by Jury territory doesn’t work because it isn’t believable.

I liked the attention to detail, though. Co directors Daniel Evans and Sean Linnen give us, for example, cameramen lurking in the shadows and Robert Jones’s set includes upstage wooden seating for the trial scenes.

At the end, the $64,000 question (sorry) is did Ingram do what he was accused of or not? The audience vote at the performance I saw came out almost like Brexit – 47% guilty and 53% not guilty. We then see the figures for other recent shows and it’s always around 50/50.

I left the theatre wondering if the Ingrams have seen this show and what they think about and say as they drive home.

First published by Sardines:




Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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