Following a sold-out run in April, Clarion – a dark comedy about the state of British media – is back for a short run at the Arcola theatre in Dalston.
Produced by the Arcola’s award-winning creative director Mehmet Ergen, this debut play by former journalist Mark Jagasia is a sharp and riotously witty observation about life inside a tabloid newspaper. Homing in on the issues of the day – immigration, nationalism and free speech – Jagasia and Ergen do for print media what Drop the Dead Donkey did to television.
The Daily Clarion is Britain’s worst newspaper. Power-crazed editor Morris Honeyspoon (brilliantly played by Critics’ Circle award-winner Greg Hicks) spends his weekends dressed as Julius Caesar, and rules his paper like a tyrant, revelling in its dysfunctional and deceitful ways. Honeyspoon’s rants about Britain are both absurd and frightening; he not only yearns for a return to the racist Britain of the 1950s, but has the means to influence a large segment of society.
Difficult times in Britain are matched by equally trying times at the paper, whose foreign owner is forever meddling. A scandal threatens to bring The Daily Clarion down and Honeyspoon is desperate to find the office mole. He is foiled by Verity Stokes (performed to perfection by three-time Olivier award-winner Clare Higgins), a once fêted foreign correspondent whose boozy, cynical ways have all but consumed her professional integrity.
The drama effortlessly takes tabloid ethics and office bullying in its stride, while serving up a tragic twist at the end. There are stereotypes aplenty, but Jagasia avoids caricature. The supporting cast of Peter Bourke, Jim Bywater, Jim Dunkley, Laura Smithers, and Ryan Wichert rise superbly to the task under the expert guidance of Ergen, who maintains a brisk pace to proceedings.
Before its world premiere in April, Ergen said: “Clarion shines a dazzling light on the dark heart of our national press. As soon as I received the script last year, I programmed a reading in our PlayWROUGHT festival of new writing. Those who were there know how special it was. I left determined to bring the play to a wider audience, and to direct a full production.”
“…In the lead roles, two of the finest actors of their generation: Greg Hicks, acclaimed member of the RSC for almost 40 years, and three-time Olivier Award-winner Clare Higgins. An outstanding supporting cast. An exceptional and ambitious team of designers.”
Powerful, on point and painfully funny, Clarion will leave you highly entertained, but also pondering deeply on the toxic mix of free speech and tabloid journalism in today’s Britain.
Runs until: 14 November 2015
Start time: 7.30pm (Mon-Sat eve) and 3pm (Sat. matinee)
Address: Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL
Ticket prices: £10-19
Info & tickets: arcolatheatre.com/clarion
Box Office: 020 7503 1646
Main photo: Greg Higgs as The Daily Clarion’s power-crazed editor Morris Honeyspoon. Photo: Simon Annand