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Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was one of the UK’s most popular TV game shows in the late 1990s and early 2000s, so much so that in 2001 the nation was gripped by the ‘coughing scandal’ which saw contestant Charles Ingram accused of cheating his way to the jackpot. He was accused alongside wife Diana and fastest finger first contestant Tecwen Whittock, who each supposedly orchestrated the coughs that would help Ingram pick the correct answers. The trio were found guilty for the crime, but the situation has received significant media coverage ever since and inspired both a play and TV show, which question if the group really committed such deception.
James Graham’s fictional play about the scandal is currently touring the UK, bringing the events to life on stage through a unique courtroom format. It is based at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre this week and I had the opportunity to review the show on the production’s opening night in Kent. I was intrigued to find out how directors Daniel Evans, Seán Linnen and the creative team would visualise such a talked about story, specifically given the questions surrounding the events over the years.
Alternating between the courtroom, the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Studio, the Ingram’s local pub ‘The Red Lion’ and the army barracks where Charles Ingram worked, Quiz is a really fast paced play with seamless transitions. Robert Jones’ set design is simplistic but extremely versatile, utilising a circular layout that can act as all four locations.
Structure of the play
The material follows the arguments of the prosecution and defence, covering the events from both perspectives. The format is clever as it encourages viewers to see both sides of what happened, but also highlights the unknowns of the situation. Constantly bringing the story back to the court case and using this as the focal set makes the audience reflect on the doubts surrounding the case, encouraging viewers to make their own minds up about what happened. Audience members can also share their thoughts through keypads, creating an interactive atmosphere within the theatre.
Recreating the quiz show drama on stage
The TV scenes feature the iconic theme music, surround sounds and overbearing studio lights that amplify the pressure on contestants. The quick transitions throughout the play extend to Ryan Day’s lighting design, but in places the lighting is too intense. When the production team imitates the lighting movements the game show is known for, the fast pacing generates a slightly uncomfortable effect. I found the overall speed of the show electrifying, but if there was anything I would slow down or reduce, it would be the TV studio lighting.
With comedian and impressionist Rory Bremner as Chris Tarrant, Quiz really can’t go wrong. His Chris Tarrant is uncanny, completely transforming into the presenter for the performance and capturing the voice and mannerisms perfectly. Charley Webb and Lewis Reeves are also fantastic as the Ingram’s, capturing the spirits of game show mad Diana and eccentric Charles through their open and sincere acting.
However in terms of comedy, the standouts are definitely Mark Benton and Sukh Ojla. Benton performs as the courtroom judge, as well as the charismatic producer at ITV and is just a joy to watch. Ojla has various smaller roles and in each, she shares some fantastic one-liners which add humour to the tense atmosphere. Her facial expressions are also outrageous, making you laugh out loud.
An exhilarating night at the theatre
The exciting and suspenseful Quiz is a cleverly staged fictional interpretation of the events, making you see the scandal in a whole different light and question everything you knew thus far. The play is the definition of entertainment and with only a couple of days left in Canterbury, you don’t want to miss it. Last minute tickets can be purchased via The Marlowe Theatre’s website.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx
*My ticket for Quiz was gifted in exchange for a review.