Review: On the Line: Media

on_the_lineCategory Theatre
Genres comedy, satire
Group News Thought / PBH’s Free Fringe
Venue La Tasca ​
Event Website  http://www.anewsthought.co.uk
Date  15-24 August
Time 14:45
Duration 1 hour
Suitability 14+
Country of Origin England

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This play takes a humorous look at the role of the press in stirring up race hatred by selective reporting and twisting of facts. it takes the form of a news discussion panel.  Audience members are given copies of a (dummy) alarmist article which claims that 50% of Britain will be Eastern European by 2018. The spoof news show introduces a newspaper publisher, a stereotypical brain dead ‘non-racist’ reactionary right winger and an idealistic intern to bicker over the article and what it means.

This does make you think, but not necessarily in the way the authors intended.  Yes the article in question does make outrageous claims but these set up straw men to knock down. Tom, the guy who is so alarmed by the article that he builds a wall around his town to protect himself from the immigrant invasion, is stupid with no redeeming qualities at all. Emma, the idealistic promoter of a multicultural society, is earnest, eager, has right on her side and is patronised and sidelined in the discussion by the flirtatious news anchor who is trying to suck up to the cynical publisher.

Doesn’t Tom have a point, though?  In a week in which The Scotsman reports that real wages have fallen by 5.5% in the past five years, the role of cheap migrant labour in keeping wage rates down is hard to ignore.  Yes, the alarmist claims satirised by this play do need challenging but so too does any suggestion that migrants are not in direct competition for jobs and services with the poorer section of the settled population; the so-called chavs, neds and spides.

This play could have shed some light on the role of the big business fraternity who actively recruit migrant labour and cut back on apprenticeships and meaningful training schemes yet cynically denigrate indigenous workers’ employability.  They then use their newspapers to try to set them against the newcomers and not their common exploiters. Instead it settled for some cheap laughs at the expense of the dumb racist. What a missed opportunity.

Reviewed by David Kerr

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