Quiz The Play

"Rory Bremner is more Chris Tarrant than Chris Tarrant. Final answer"

Little did I think as an 11-year-old quiz show fan that many years later (you do the math), I would be reviewing a theatre production based on the ‘Coughing Major’s’ attempt to cheat his way to a million pounds on the world’s most popular show. But, alas, here I am.

Quiz recounts the story of Charles (Lewis Reeves) and Diana (Charley Webb) Ingram: a married couple who, in 2003, were found guilty – along with Tecwen Whittock (Marc Antolin) – for conspiracy to deceive. This adaption, written by James Graham, gives the perspective from both the defence and the prosecution during the trial that gripped the nation over 20 years ago. As an audience we are left to decide after each gives their closing argument, guilty or not guilty?

Taking on the role of Chris Tarrant in this production is Rory Bremner who, frankly, is more Chris Tarrant than Tarrant himself! Bremner’s characterisation is perfection down to each mannerism and quaint nuance. It could be quite easy as an actor to rely on the audience’s laughter to ham up their performance into a caricature, however, Bremner maintains the balance of control in his portrayal, giving a memorable performance. 

Reeves and Webb are believable as The Ingrams who, based on memory alone, lacked anything particularly standout in their personalities. I was left partially rooting for Charles, but this was until after the show when I had completed further research. Interestingly, he was a lot more pompous in real life compared to Reeves’ interpretation and I also found that the truth had been stretched in some scenes for dramatic effect. (Spoiler alert, their pets were not killed…)

The standout performance of this production is by Sukh Ojla who plays multiple roles throughout. Ojla gives unique yet realistic characterisation in the multitude of parts that she plays. Her accents are flawless and her physicality on stage is strong. She manages to bring the fun to the production which is desperately needed during some of the longer scenes. Her comic timing is impeccable and allows the audience to feel safe in her company.

Lighting design by Ryan Day moved us seamlessly between the courtroom and set of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (Reminiscent of other courtroom dramas that have followed in the years since Quiz’s debut.) I would have liked the sound (design by Ben and Max Ringham) to have married better with lighting throughout to give the same oomph that the start of the performance had. A standout moment where they were in perfect synergy was during the verdict in Act 2; beautiful work which left me with sweaty palms in anticipation.

The set by Robert Jones was minimal and adaptive with the right balance of video design (Tim Reid) integrated, bringing us directly into the TV studio.

The book was relatively accurate to transcripts and indeed the real-life events, however some scenes could have been snappier and enhanced with sharper transitions between past and present, with a simple sound effect or punchier lighting change. 

On the surface, Quiz is a tongue-in-cheek analysis of the backstory leading up to and the aftermath of the infamous scandal. So much so, in the interval, I didn’t see the point. However, my opinion gradually changed as Act 2 progressed. Something I admire with Graham’s writing is how he has the audience leave the theatre questioning everything they thought they knew. Graham masterfully manages to incorporate themes of trial-by-media and public persecution leaving the audience questioning ongoing issues with the justice system throughout the world as well as trials of persons of public interest.

Overall, this is a show that entertained and left me in a state of contemplation after leaving- and that is what theatre is all about. Don’t ask the audience, phone a friend and go see Quiz!

This show was reviewed on the 24th October 2023 at The Lowry, Salford where it runs until the 28th October 2023.  Tickets available here: Quiz: the Coughing Major Millionaire Scandal | What's On | The Lowry

Full tour details can be found here: Quiz The Play

Review written by Lee Gregory

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