sat 20/07/2024

Dark Tourism, Park Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Dark Tourism, Park Theatre

Dark Tourism, Park Theatre

Toothless satire of celebrity and the media won't make headlines

Hot air: radio hosts Milton (Huw Parmenter) and Rob (Tom Maller) aim to shock

Stop press: our rampant celebrity culture might not be wholly positive! If you’ve already been apprised of that fact some time in the past century, go ahead and skip actor Daniel Dingsdale’s debut play, which – along with Steve Thompson’s similarly outmoded Roaring Trade in the main house – stifles the often creatively programmed Park Theatre’s claim to relevance.

Cast your minds back to 2008, when Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross left messages on Andrew Sachs’s phone claiming Brand had slept with his granddaughter. Here we have another pair of obnoxious, bantering shock jocks – Rob (Tom Maller) and Milton (Huw Parmenter), the latter a Lidl Brand: long hair, skinny jeans, studded wrist cuff and a pale imitation of Brand's mannered verbosity. On air, the pair claim Milton had anal sex with children’s cookery TV presenter Becky Watson (Josie Dunn, pictured below), who they oh-so-hilariously rechristen “Becky Bumlove”. PR consultants Richard (Damien Lyne) and Max (Dingsdale) step in to repair the damage.

Dark Tourism, Park TheatreThe radio lad culture has some topicality with the providential revival of bullish XFM, otherwise were subjected to desperate one-liners and tired, reheated arguments. Publicists are cynical bottom-feeders. Tabloid hacks claim to be purveyors of truth. Actors are under pressure to sell their private lives. Reality TV has created a fame-obsessed generation. People don’t present their real lives on social media. We criticise the paparazzi but pore over their snaps. Just remember Diana!

Dingsdale tosses around loaded issues like date rape, revenge porn, slut-shaming and violence against women with cavalier tone deafness. Too many ideas are glancingly referenced rather than developed, like the criticism of body-shaming women’s magazines that show damaging female objectification is also self-inflicted. A valid point, but one made with more nuance by Lucy Kirkwood in NSFW at the Royal Court back in 2012.

Though sadly ever-present, the wannabe comic duo’s schtick is also familiar: they’re equal opportunity offenders, protectors of free speech, and anyone who disagrees – who can’t take a joke – is akin to Mary Whitehouse. The confrontation between the pair and Becky, witnessed by their strangely passive publicists and a delighted entertainment reporter (Rebecca Brewer), feels like an educational role-playing exercise, despite Dunn and Parmenter’s passionate delivery. At other times, the piece is as mean-spirited and vacuous as the culture it’s satirising.

A sketchy subplot sees cheerily dense X Factor product Gemma (Tamaryn Payne) figuring out how to milk her 15 seconds of manufactured fame, while American actress Jennifer (Jill Winternitz) fears she’s already a has-been. There’s laboured antipathy between Max and seemingly the world’s only journalist (new media gets short shrift), and a vague career crisis for Richard that unwisely cites – and thus invites comparison with – the mighty Network.

Adam Lenson’s production has eager energy but uneven pacing, with far too many stilted lapses. “Everyone’s got a choice what they give their time to,” says Richard. I wouldn’t advise you give it to this.

It’s as mean-spirited and vacuous as the culture it’s satirising


Editor Rating: 
Average: 1 (1 vote)

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