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New Greenham Arts - The Man Who Cracked

20th March 2004.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Theatre of invention

The Man Who Cracked, at New Greenham Arts, on Saturday, March 20

Spike Theatre Company’s The Man Who Cracked is a dark, comic tale set in a world where television networks battle for ratings and people live in neighbourly suburbs, dreaming fractured paranoid dreams.

The time is the ’50s. America has become obsessed with ‘reds under the beds’ which has generated the paranoia of McCarthyism and the Cold War sci-fi boom on television, used as government propaganda.

Inspired by such films as Quiz Show, Pleasantville and The Truman Show and the short stories of Asimov, the tale centres around George (Paul Duckworth), the announcer for the hit soap opera Hey, Mr Postman who is catapulted to stardom when the star of the show is suddenly electrocuted by a faulty microphone and he stands in.

Director Glen Noble has devised a wonderfully funny, inventive piece of theatre, perfectly capturing the genre of the comic supplements reflected from the Sunday New York Times.

Jo Pocock’s design was a gem, a pastiche of so many magic moments including, for those who may remember, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In’s opening cupboards.

The storyline twists and turns as fast as any roller coaster ride. There is an inspired American dream sequence and a wonderful alien puppet who would put ET to shame.

It was a joy to watch such a talented company perfectly capturing so many characters and performing them with such energy and commitment.

Julie Walker was a splendid mum and Aisling Leyne was totally convincing as your all-American Mary Sue.

This was very much an ensemble production, so it would be churlish not to applaud the performances of Tim Lynskey and Matt Rutter in many roles.

How is the plot resolved? Does George survive the pressures of the media?

He certainly does in a most violent way when he kicks the television, the very core of his existence, and it explodes spectacularly!

Simon James’ music was spot on, a perfect commentary on the action.

Great fun, great theatre, just a pity that there was such a small audience, but from their enthusiastic applause they obviously thoroughly enjoyed the performance.