Edinburgh Fringe 2019
A budding journalist lands a dream internship at the country’s biggest online news organisation. He there stumbles on an earth-shattering story and decides to click publish. There’s just one problem: it’s completely untrue.
Osman Baig is the solo performer in this effective and affecting piece of theatre-based storytelling. With just a few lighting changes and economic and effective use of a few sound effects, this is the story of a budding journalist’s journey through the ethics and consequences of finding the Big Story in a media world more interested in clickbait, sales and brand than the reporting of the truth. Fake news takes centre stage as the issue in a story with a twist in its tale. It is a timely story.
This production comes with high ratings from the very media publications that form part of the backdrop of the story we are invited to hear. As our narrator and actor sets the scene we learn of the machinations of the media, and even descend into the realm of the Dark Web.
Fake News as a theatre production has a clear moral purpose – we have the right to be told the truth and that isn’t always the case where a scoop is more important to the media corporation than its veracity.
The performer is a highly skilled , charismatic storyteller and overcomes with consummate skill the limitations of a sweat-inducing venue with little room to move on the stage. That said, I can imagine even greater impact were the performer given more movement space. It feels necessarily shouted in parts as a performance as if blocked in a muich larger theatre. Transposition into the acoustics of this space are needed – take it down in terms of volume and projection and the space will be better used. Even near the back I felt a bit boomed at in parts. There is also scope for better pacing. Few pauses and use of silence and stillness created a sense of unneeded urgency in the telling but also a hurry that made for information overload. It feels like a piece designed for bigger venues and the quality of the writing and delivery certainly merit bigger spaces onward from Edfringe.
The material is relevant, important and very well written. The scene is set, the tale unfolds, the pay-off is as satisfying as it is surprising. There’s humour, satire and plenty of irony. What can we believe in this hour? How do we know it all true, we the attendees at a media training session? Osman Baig more than carries the narrative and we want to hear every word. And it is the authenticity of the piece that makes us go with every word. This is certainly a story I was happy to believe and it leaves me still pondering the import of what I witnessed.
The play is a good primer for the theme of fake news in our society. It’s not a complex story, it sticks to its knitting in delivering what is essentially a personal anecdote, one that is ripe to be heard by fringe audiences.
I am more than happy to recommend Fake News. Take your older children as well – this is the world they are growing up in.