Jingan Young is a fascinating writer to follow, as her play Life and Death of a Journalist explores the hardships of journalism amid political turbulence and cultural difference.
Protagonist Laura grapples with the struggles of reporting and the realisation of multiple truths.
Lucy Roslyn gives an outstanding performance as Laura, portraying a conflicted and troubled journalist who is torn between her job and her relationship with Hong Kong-born Mark (Robert Bradley). Despite political unrest, she desires to return to Hong Kong because it is a place she feels she needs to be. After being offered a job at a newspaper with a political agenda, Laura feels trapped. Should she improve the advancement of her career, or make sacrifices for her moral compass? This political play lays emphasis on the battle against censorship and the ethics of journalism in equal measures of frustration and intelligence.
Inspired by the protests in Hong Kong, this story pulls its audience right into the action. The narrative stresses the importance of individual voice against widespread vocal suppression. Atmospherically, the performance felt immersive. This clever direction brings Young’s writing to life; the audience is able to feel a part of the scene, as though they are personally involved. What hindered this slightly was that the use of sound was a little quiet and gave the impression that the performance could have been more intense, as it left the audience to rely on the story to an extent near the beginning of the performance. However, this was a minor detail that was soon overshadowed by other impressive elements of the production.
Max Lindsay’s direction targets the performance towards the theme of pain, both emotional and political. The stage was arranged in a chaotic way so that it could be physicalized by the actors to lay emphasis on inner (and outer) frustrations. Amongst this, overlapping dialogue created stichomythic intensity, particularly in the case of Melissa Woodbridge’s cutthroat characterisation of Laura’s editor, Vicky. Anna Reddyhoff’s use of hazy lighting created a cold underbelly to the performance, making the characters appear more vulnerable. This reflects the anxieties within the narrative surrounding press control and public demonization of the media in a crisis.
Laura recognises that the real story is not being told authentically because of fear and suppression. She is told by those around her that what she remembers from before no longer exists and is unrecognisable. Her character is used as a centrepiece for exploring how the media can be hesitant to use candid language in a political situation such as this. This makes the play incredibly relevant for those that know China and Hong Kong in the contemporary. Laura is conflicted by her love for these countries, being fantastic places to live and visit, versus her duty as a journalist. Her inner turmoil becomes increasingly more poignant to follow as this dilemma is explored.
Young’s writing acts as a reminder that there is always a choice over how to use our voices and the platform that we have been given. The performances were bold and brilliant, whilst Lindsay’s direction sensitively handled such a current political situation. If you have an interest in journalism, current politics and emotive drama, this is the play for you.
VAULT Festival is incredibly immersive and shares stories that are not necessarily told in mainstream theatre spaces. Life and Death of a Journalist is running as a part of VAULT Festival until 1st March.