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The Theatreguide.London Review

Life After Scandal
Hampstead Theatre      Autumn 2007

Robin Soans' latest verbatim play is based on interviews with a dozen or so people whose private lives became fodder for tabloids, paparazzi and public gossip as a result of scandals.

Generally speaking, they didn't enjoy the adventure, see themselves as victims, and blame the press, the public or government conspiracies for their woes.

No surprises there, then, and indeed there is little in the way of drama or even theatricality about the play.

Seven actors just stand or sit onstage in character, speaking to an unseen interviewer about their experiences, their monologues edited and cross-cut according to themes, one figure's comment or word choice triggering a cut to another who picks up the topic.

The stories range from the trivial - fake nobleman Duncan Roy, TV quiz show cheat Charles Ingram - through the semicomically sleazy - disgraced politicians Jonathan Aitken and Neil Hamilton - to the genuinely tragic- Lord Edward Montague, imprisoned in the 1950s for homosexuality.

(Note: these names probably mean nothing to foreigners, and even the British man-on-the-street may have forgotten exactly what each is supposed to have done, but they did all have their extended fifteen minutes of infamy.)

Unsurprisingly, none of them is particularly inclined to talk about the crime or indiscretion that got them in trouble in the first place, and Soans betrays his own agenda by not pressing them on the point.

He allows Ingram to absolutely deny any wrongdoing, while the others brush over or skip past that point and only the somewhat self-righteous Aitken admits that he brought it all on himself.

The responses of the others range from Montague's sad hope that he will be remembered for his Good Works in the subsequent half-century and not the scandal of his youth, through the conviction of foreign service whistleblower Craig Murray and the wife of Cabinet member Robin Cook that their scandals were engineered by the government to neutralise them.

In contrast, Edwina Currie went public about her affair with John Major as vengeance for not getting the political advancement she wanted, Duncan Roy and insurance cheat Charles Brocket seem to have survived with good cheer intact, and Neil and Christine Hamilton enjoy thumbing their noses at the world by becoming successful media figures, appearing in panto and reality TV shows and charging for every interview.

Soans' sympathies and agenda are made clear not only by allowing everyone their self-serving versions of history but by digressions into the subject of our media- and celebrity-driven popular culture, through interviews with a journalist, a PR man and a paparazzo.

Though he doesn't deny the sad or sleazy people some of his interviewees have become (or always were), he clearly has some sympathy for their belief that their unhappy experiences were everybody's fault but their own.

Each of the cast plays several figures, with Tim Preece's genuinely tragic Montague and Geraldine Fitzgerald's vindictive Currie standing out.

As I said, there's not much of a play here, though those who didn't get enough of each of these real-life characters at the time may find hearing their side of the story interesting and fun.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Life After Scandal - Hampstead  Theatre 2007


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