Sense of crisis prompts quick production of newspapers play

A PLAY about the newspaper industry is reportedly being produced at relatively break-neck speed because of a sense of crisis within the industry.

Writes Susan Mansfield in today’s Scotsman, the National theatre of Scotland’s new play, Enquirer, draws on 60 hours of interviews with editors, journalists and proprietors.

Begins Mansfield: “A copy of The Sun lies face down on the table in the rehearsal room. [co-writer] Andrew O’Hagan flicks it over to reveal a front page proclaiming in giant type: ‘Rihanna’s Fling with Demi’s Ex’. It could be any tabloid newspaper on any given day, but in the present context, it reads like an emblem of an industry in crisis, desperately chasing sales by pumping out inane celebrity gossip.”

She later writes: “Explaining the reason for the sense of urgency, [NTS chief executive, Vicky] Featherstone says: ‘[Co-director] John [Tiffany] and I felt really strongly that this should happen now. If we commission a playwright, it’s going to happen in a year and a half’s time, but it felt like it was the question for now. We’re attempting a really serious piece of theatre about a profession and an industry which connects with every single person in the country on a daily basis and which does not have the space to reflect on their own situation in their own media.’

“Last year’s phone-hacking scandal, the shotgun closure of the News of the World and the subsequent Leveson Inquiry [into press standards] has brought a murky web of newspaper practices sharply into focus.

“But Featherstone and Tiffany believe this is just one aspect of a much larger crisis. Allegations of phone-hacking and corruption take place against a backdrop of falling circulations and cutbacks across the industry, impacting on the ability of the press to do its job.

“As early as 2009, veteran media commentator, Roy Greenslade, said: ‘We are not facing a momentous crisis in journalism. We are already in a crisis that is putting the central public service aspect of our role in jeopardy.'”

The Enquirer is being performed at the Hub, Pacific Quay, Glasgow, from the 26th of this month to May 12.