I want to pay tribute to the cartoonist Steve Bell whose work in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper keeps me sane in these uncertain times. He always seems to express a sense of fun and a glimmer of hope while skewering the self- righteous. Never has he been more needed than during this UK election period, an election that was unnecessary in any case and was little more than a vanity project for the current Prime Minister. When we wake up tomorrow, there might be good news. However, Steve Bell will have something to say/write/draw that will speak for many of us.
I went to London to see the National Theatre production about the phone hacking scandal. The play transferred to the West End which is where I saw it. I am predisposed to enjoy any play that attacks the morals of the tabloid press in this country. I am told we get the press we deserve but I wonder where the cycle gets broken. Journalists claim that celebrity stories sell newspapers and that they write them because the readers want to read them. Where the slide downwards is halted, I do not know. I thought the hacking scandal would have made a difference but it seems not.
This play takes into account the outcome of the trials held in this country over journalists who believed they were above the law, mostly because politicians treated them as such. It was full of good one liners even if the play itself lacked cohesion. Richard Bean writes fully dialogue and there were many ‘knowing’ comments. Maybe it will take a bit longer before a more considered play can be written but, it seems, the world will have moved on and the tabloid press is back to its own sense of entitlement and power; who will move against a press that has the power to crush you?
One of the impressive aspects of this play was the way it portrayed all journalists as complicit in the damaged culture; there were no rogue journalists here! The Asian Police Commissioner was a great character if only because he was a fool and it was refreshing in a diverse way to have an Asian fool.
Richard Bean has written a play for our times. I wonder if, when in the future some other playwright covers this period, audiences of the future will believe that journalists can really have acted with so little regard for the lives of the people they exposed.