The Dumb Show – Critical R eview

What people do not know, will not hurt them. The Dumb Show is a play set in modern times involving tabloid journalists and celebrities. Tabloid journalists have one goal in mind; that is, to extract as much information from a famous individual’s personal life and share that with the rest of humanity. Many of these journalists are extremely cunning and may take on an exceeding amount of risk to achieve this goal. Deception, the main theme is achieved through Liz and Greg, our two journalists, whom take comedian, Barry for a spin. Several elements make up a good theatrical performance, these are, sets, lighting, props, costumes and characters.

The Dumb Show is performed at the Royal Court theatre on a modern, proscenium-arch theatre. This stage was chosen in accordance to the play’s intended effect. The director wanted to promote the fourth wall effect which made one intrude on Barry’s life as a comedian and his rendezvous with deception. This stage promoted realism acting – in the sense that the actors were not acting towards an audience but instead were being observed by an audience that can look through this ‘imaginary’ fourth wall. There is one set used throughout the entire play. Every scene was performed at a hotel room.

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This is a very simple five star modern room with a glass based design. Behind the sitting was a curtain which opened and closed to signify night and day. This set was well in tune with the story created by the tabloid journalists. Liz and Greg acted as bankers that required an act at a business gathering. They invited Barry into the hotel room to discuss the terms under which he would provide his comedy show. The curtain served as the main set change that determined the mood of the atmosphere. As the play develops, from a casual conversation to an intense argument, the curtain closes.

Thereafter, in the final scene, the curtain opens once again to signify daytime. Lighting is used in conjunction with the set appropriately to portray mood and time. On the foreground regular spotlights were used and at the background when the curtains were left open, blue or red lights were shun through the window as sky colour. Blue sky colour was used to display a calm atmosphere in the beginning. Red sky colour was used when Barry was being threatened by Liz and Greg. Props are often used for a significant purpose in theatre, similarly in The Dumb Show there were a number of props that contributed to the play.

Liz was the only character with a mobile phone; therefore she is displayed as a cosmopolitan woman. The mobile phone is her link to her boss and Barry’s wife. She controlled the phone and therefore, the job. Although Greg may have seen as the commanding figure, Liz is actually the person with the ability to implement and achieve change. This is prominent when she alone goes to visit Barry at the end of the play to convince him to do another article. Through the use of props, Barry was ‘caught in the act’. The mini bar, drugs, briefcase, camera, room phone and microphone were key props used for this purpose.

In the second scene, Barry was left alone with Liz. He drank many little bottles of alcohol from this mini bar, he consumed speed from his pocket and he used the room phone to get in touch with his drug dealer. Little did he know that they were not bankers and he was being recorded via video and audio means. Deception is achieved mainly through the aid of these props. Costumes express occupation, status, character and character changes. We begin the play with all three characters dressed in suits. Liz’s costume screams sex appeal so that Barry would be interested in her.

In the second scene, she is not wearing her intellectual glasses; instead, she sits in a revealing position showing off her tiny skirt. Barry, being a man in search of lost love from his ill wife, finds himself touching and flirting with Liz. Once again, Liz’s costume deceives him into being caught on video. Barry’s ‘immaculate suit’ slowly becomes scrubby and untidy has he winds himself into a mess. The only time when the characters were not dressed professionally was in the final scene. Liz and Barry meet at the hotel dressed in casual clothing for a casual conversation.

Although this conversation ends up in a business matter, the clothing was appropriate as Liz came to apologize and Barry to say his last goodbyes as a changed individual. Each character possesses certain personality traits that are essential to depict a real life scenario. Actors without sets, lighting, props, and costumes can convey a message that the director intends to provide. Seeing that they are the most important element of the play, many themes and issues arise from their character. Greg, is a simple character, he is a tabloid journalist and is doing his job within limits.

In scene three, Greg drops the news on Barry, telling him they are journalists looking for a story and demands that he cooperate with him or they release the recorded video. Barry agrees to cooperate but soon realises that he best get in touch with his lawyer before going even further; not before long, he storms out of the room leaving Greg on the ground. Greg conducts his work within limits because he realises a possible law suit and decides to drop the whole matter; whereas, Liz refuses to listen to Greg and wants to go ahead with the article.

Liz is seen as a cut throat and cunning individual. From the above illustration, the sentence preceding this is underlined. Liz’s character throughout the play develops strongly. When we are introduced to her, she is a young, new tabloid journalist, assistant to Greg and does not speak directly with the boss. While on the job, she realises the potential this article has in influencing her career; so she goes the extra mile by seducing Barry and letting him get so close to her. In the scene right after, she stabs him in the back and insists on writing the article.

Her drive even results in speaking directly to the boss and going against Greg’s wishes. In the final scene, she appears to be a kind person by giving her grievance for Barry’s wife’s death and apologizing for the article. She urges Barry to give her the opportunity to write another article describing his good side and his transformed lifestyle. At this point, Barry is ruined, his career is finished and his family has changed eternally. Liz’s character is unforgiving, she writes the article as his wife expires and wants to write another to boost her career.

Barry, our main character reminds us of a simple and happy individual with endless desires. Barry is a comedian, and thus provides plenty comic relief throughout the performance. He is currently going through a mid-life crisis and turns to alcohol and drugs to escape from his everyday affairs. It is inappropriate for any individual’s life to be scrutinized and judged. On this note, one can feel very strongly for celebrities who face tabloid journalist that can make or break your life. Barry’s relationship with Liz is one which can be described as a ‘love-hate’ relationship.

In the beginning, we learn he is driven by money to perform the show. He hates her for writing the article but yearns for a woman’s touch and love. Both his mother and his wife have left him, and at the end we find that he succumbs to Liz not for the drive of money but instead because he wants someone to listen and care for him. Every theatrical performance has a message to deliver or at least something to offer. The Dumb Show brings you into the life of a common celebrity that is exploited. Barry was blackmailed into doing something he voluntarily would not have done.

The life of many individuals living carelessly involves sex, drugs, alcohol and money. However, these should not be used against them to extract information. This is personal and should not hurt appreciators of a celebrity’s art. At the end, many feel little remorse for Barry because he agrees to do the article for money. Then again, would you not do the same if you were put in such a position? The world is a dumb show, where many assume money can buy happiness, information and everything else one desires.

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