By Dean Hewison & Leon Wadham.
Directed by: Conrad Newport.
Cast:Michele Amas, Tai Blades, Nick Dunbar, Barnaby Fredric, Lucinda Hare, Eli Kent, Donogh Rees, Jessica Robinson, Tim Spite, Phil Vaughan.
Downstage Theatre, 19 April, 8pm.
Live At Six takes audiences on a unique journey into the cut-throat world of television news in New Zealand. It is a fascinating insight into contemporary media, which has a dark humorous edge to it. As a thriller, it is extremely convincing, and the contrast between comedy and serious issues is perfectly balanced by the writers Dean Hewison and Leon Wadham.
The fun begins in the Downstage bar half an hour before the show. Having been asked to imagine we were at the New Zealand Media Awards after-party, we came across several personalities who it later turned out were characters in the show. A woman in a silver dress – TV One news anchor Jane Kenyon (Jessica Robinson) – appears particularly intoxicated, stumbling around the bar making an embarrassment of herself. Her downfall is captured on camera, with the footage forming the central plot of the production. As an audience, we were encouraged to film her in the bar on our smartphone before e-mailing the video to be used in that night’s show.
Once the show is underway, we witness the tension and excitement inside the high-pressure atmospheres in the newsrooms of New Zealand. The setting is impressive, with the stage colourfully split in half and a multitude of screens all around the auditorium. The screens are used to particularly good effect during the news bulletins when they show different footage of the incident involving Jane Kenyon. The production leaves the audience second guessing until the cleverly satisfying climax, when we finally see how the rival networks cover the story of Jane Kenyon’s illicit affairs and subsequent fall from grace.
Each character was given a back story and room to shine, and the cast all acquit themselves well as editors, presenters and executives of the rival networks. The two junior editors were especially well received with their humorous dialogue and stories – you can see their monitors on the backdrop, where they play Angry Birds and Skype girlfriends. There were several stand-out performances, notably from Phil Vaughn as the old-school TV One executive and Michele Amas, as the devious leader of 3 News. The lengths she is prepared to go to (and the laws she is prepared to break) symbolise the problems of contemporary media agencies. In a world where everyone can be a reporter, the position of traditional journalism is increasingly questioned. Live At Six captures the landscape of our time well, a landscape which has rapidly changed since this production was first staged at BATS’ Theatre in 2009.
Live at Six runs until 28 April, Tuesday and Wednesday 6:30pm, Thursday to Saturday 8pm. Tickets cost $46/$25