Billie Piper to star in hacking trial satire 'Great Britain' at the National Theatre
The former Doctor Who actress will play an ambitious tabloid editor
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Wednesday 25 June 2014
The National Theatre has responded instantly to the verdicts reached in the phone-hacking trial with a “fast and furious” satire about the press, politicians and police that opens on Monday.
Great Britain, starring Billie Piper as an ambitious tabloid editor, was announced at a hastily arranged press conference this morning and opens in five days.
The play was ready to stage at the Lyttelton Theatre on Monday, but the National’s lawyers advised that it should wait until the verdicts in the long-running hacking trial were reached.
Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones on Tuesday, while Rebekah Brooks, his predecessor, was cleared of all charges.
“We didn’t think the trial would last as long as it did,” National director Sir Nicholas said, adding: “We were being very careful. It’s fiction but we were advised it would be better not to open the play while the trial was in progress.”
Piper plays Paige Britain, the young editor of fictional tabloid The Free Press, although Sir Nicholas was at pains to stress the character was not a reference to Brooks. Rupert Vansittart will play the Prime Minister.
Sir Nicholas said: “There are parallels with current events but the play spreads its net very widely. It has an entire network of press, police and political establishment in its sights. It’s not particularly bothered by specific allegations against specific people.”
Writer Richard Bean, whose work includes One Man, Two Guvnors, said: “It’s a fictional piece. It’s a grotesque satire that draws on current events, but is in no way a docudrama.”
Bean admitted one plotline was inspired by the story of the tabloid hounding of Christopher Jefferies wrongfully suspected following the murder of Joanna Yeates. He subsequently won damages from eight newspapers.
“I can only write plays if I get angry about something,” Bean said, “and that whole case made me insanely angry.”
There will be no previews, with a select audience invited to several dress rehearsals, and the play will run until 23 August. Journalists and newspaper editors have sat in on rehearsals and were happy with the portrayal of the industry, Sir Nichoals said.
He continued: “Both of us have a gut sympathy for good, old fashioned tabloid journalism… For the tabloid journalists who find proper stories.”
“It’s a satire which has as its target, perversions of the idea of a free press, not of the free press itself. The free press is an ideal we share and wish to protect.”
Had the verdict in the trial been different, Bean said, the play would still have been “pretty much the same”.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre