‘He has my fullest support’ is the death knell that echoes around BBC Broadcasting House in the wake of the departure of the Acting Head of News. Promoted to Acting Acting Head of News, Rachel Clarke (Suki Webster) finds herself facing the news story of the year - corruption within the Corporation itself siphoning off funds to a cult - on her very first day. Making News is a satire replete with witty lines and subtle suggestions prodding the last great bastion of the establishment - or hole of mad left-wing loonies, depending on who you ask - the BBC.
The plot is well-crafted, reflecting the general chaos of infighting and cover-ups we’ve come to expect from Auntie over the past year or so, sometimes with only the merest hint of exaggeration. Dan Starkey’s furiously agitated News Editor, Carter, brings the panic of a newsroom to the stage within himself, working beautifully with Sara Pascoe’s laid back junior producer. Unfortunately Pascoe tends to be a bit too chilled out, failing to project her lines very well, which is a pity when she’s gifted with some of the best. Her comic timing, though, can’t be faulted.
Phill Jupitus and Hal Cruttenden prove the highlights of the play, for very different reasons; Jupitus’ looming, sinister Director General has a completely different presence to the giggling Porky the poet who rocked last year’s Fringe and as such is a revelation. Cruttenden supplants heroine Rachel as the sympathetic centre of the show, his campy, nervy performance plucking the heartstrings and tickling the funny bone simultaneously.
Unfortunately there are still significant problems with the play, both structurally and in performance. A recurring device of Rachel seeing herself on a large television screen, while good for a few laughs, makes very little sense unless we are supposed to believe she is truly insane. It feels a little like the writing is stranded between BBC 3 and BBC 2, the surreal and the satirical - or perhaps just lazy. More damningly, the crucial character of Noel is consistently underplayed by Liam Williams, who also keeps his back to at least half the audience at any one time. His alternately bland or blared dialogue is completely jarring when set against the rest of the cast. The impressed and aroused reactions of the other characters make no sense as a response to his frankly poor performance and given the plot revolves around his revelations, this proves a major flaw.
Beyond the many foibles lies a cutting satire and there are some cracking scenes that deserve to be seen: most of the two-handers are comic gold, while the climactic interview balances drama and hilarity perfectly - indeed, it earned almost as much applause as the concluding scene, which might as well have been done away with. If you’re looking for a clever, cutting and caustic insight into dear old Auntie you can’t do much better, but with such a calibre of talent on board the production could… They have my fullest support.