Dumb Show

Dumb Show, at the Oldham Coliseum. Photo: Andrew Billington
Dumb Show, at the Oldham Coliseum. Photo: Andrew Billington
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review: “Dumb Show”, produced by Oldham Coliseum at the Grange Arts Centre. Until June 30th.

Box office: 0161 6242829. Website: www.coliseum.org.uk

Joe Penhall’s satiric dark comedy Dumb Show ends the Oldham Coliseum Company’s short residency at the Grange Arts Centre.

In October they return to the refurbished theatre in Fairbottom Street. Penhall’s drama centres on a television star Barry, (Steve Huison) trapped into a sting by two undercover tabloid reporters Liz (Kate Coogan) and Greg (Leigh Symonds).

Originally written in 2004, it was based partly on the Michael Barrymore case. But subsequent calculated “revelations” have involved royalty, sports stars and other celebrities. The current Leveson inquiry makes it especially relevant.

This bitingly funny and, at times, painful play exposes much about our prurient interest in the private lives of so-called celebrities. Do we have the Press we deserve? We watch and laugh, but are made uncomfortable as Greg and Liz manipulate Barry, but he is not without fault.

Penhall succeeds in making us interested in three unlikable characters but fascinated by the tricks and twists. The cast of three keep the pace, the humour and the rage well. Foxton’s design moves us seamless from scene to scene in the round.

It was particularly valuable to have director Kevin Shaw’s insight in a talk before I saw the production, and increased my understanding of the processes of putting on a play. It would be worth conveying this to a wider audience. My companion and I discussed the issues all the way home, a good sign of a challenging drama.

The finalé of the current season is a promenade production in Oldham’s Alexandra Park of “Star-Crossed”, an Oldham take on Romeo and Juliet. This runs from July 12 to 22nd. The Homecoming Season begins in October with “The Importance of Being Earnest”, the Coliseum’s incomparable panto, this year Cinderella, a Dickens, an Ayckbourn, John Godber, an Alan Plater, all iconic playwrights and, for my personal delight, the magnificent LipService in their new literary spoof, Inspector Norse.

I am really looking forward to them all and to being back in such a friendly venue.