Question: What's the connection between the 1982 musical Windy City with Dennis Waterman, the 1988 film Switching Channels with Burt Reynolds and Kathleen Turner, and the quintessential screwball comedy His Girl Friday with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in 1940? Answer: They're all remakes of the classic newspaper farce The Front Page. News just in: it's about to resurface at the Donmar Warehouse starring Alun Armstrong and Griff Rhys Jones.
Reporters tend to crop up in plays. Try Phyllis Nagy's The Strip or Sarah Kane's Blasted. The latter centred around an excessive tabloid journalist which doubtless fuelled the famously vituperative tabloid response. Doug Lucie recently attacked the mores of the press in The Shallow End but that was more a vengeful lecture than a play. Even the ennobled playwright Jeffrey Archer had a stab at the genre with Exclusive!, but the least said about that the better. We almost had Robert Maxwell: The Musical but we were spared - sorry, denied - that when it was ruled prejudicial to the Maxwell court case.
Cinema does the newspaper business much better. Look at, say, Citizen Kane, All the President's Men or The Paper and you'll see why. It's all about scale. You need a huge cast to show a newspaper functioning at full pelt. It's no coincidence that it took the resources of the National Theatre to stage the great exception, David Hare and Howard Brenton's Pravda, and it was the National that last staged The Front Page in London in 1972. Hardly surprising when you consider the cost of hiring 17 men and five women.
With everyone obsessed by the role and responsibilities of the media, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's rip-roaring, hell-for-leather, quasi- autobiographical satire of 1928 couldn't be more topical. Ruthless, scheming, fast-talking Chicago newspaper editor Walter Burns will stop at nothing to keep his star reporter Hildy Johnson who wants to marry and quit the dog-eat-dog atmosphere of the newsroom. When an escaped convict bound for the gallows bursts upon the scene, Walter and Hildy leap into a wildly funny journalistic frenzy which exposes the egomaniacal excess of the media as they try to land the scoop. Earl Spencer and the Press Complaints Commission would be advised to book.
From Wed, Donmar Warehouse, Covent Garden, London WC2 (0171-369 1732)Reuse content