Sunday, January 13, 2013

One Rogue Reporter - putting "meat and two veg" on the menu at Out to Lunch

Part comedy, part rant and part personal redemption crusade, Rich Peppiatt’s one man show One Rogue Reporter hit the stage at the Out to Lunch Arts Festival on Friday.

The ex-journalist was open about his less than illustrious career as a journalist at the Daily Star (which included including being sent out dressed in a burqa); a career that ended with a very public resignation letter. Whether looking for salvation or revenge, creating the show gave the newspaper industry a taste of its own medicine in parallel with the Leveson Inquiry.

The show’s title was taken from the phrase News International used to dismiss – or explain – the initial phone hacking allegations, though it also describes the ex-reporter’s career change from newsroom to the stage.

Peppiatt’s routine is peppered with montages of clips from Leveson, videos showing that newspaper editors don’t appreciate being door stepped, and dissection of the Daily Mail website (“where ‘public’ has no ‘L’”). [Rich – if you’re reading, note that as well as being a terrible story, the online Mail story you illustrate also has a missing apostrophe, a crime against grammar!]

In amongst the misdemeanours and doubtful practices, Peppiatt did find room in his 70 minute routine to praise some stories and campaigns from the newspapers he targeted.

Two sections of the performance stand out as particularly shocking. One confronts an ex-editor with his own private, saucy text messages to a woman who wasn’t his wife. The fact that the ex-editor agrees that such correspondence from other people could be made public makes his squirming all the more visible.

On the International Forum for Responsible Media blog, Athalie Matthews describes the second instance better than I can:

On the recurring theme of spherical objects, the show ends unforgettably with close-up hidden camera footage of [News of the World chief reporter Neville] Thurlbeck’s naked nether regions as he receives a full body massage at the naturist Dorset guesthouse he stayed at ‘in the call of duty’ – but evidently enjoyed somewhat beyond it. Don’t eat beforehand as Thurlbeck’s meat and two veg are not a pretty sight – unless of course you are the guesthouse’s owners Sue and Bob Firth who secretly filmed him in the event that scores should ever need to be settled. If ever Thurlbeck rued one of his own headlines it will now forever be: “The Guesthouse where All Rooms Come with Ensuite Pervert”. And if anyone doubted the rumours that he seriously enjoyed his stay – or missed the internet footage – this one’s for you. Mrs Thurlbeck, please stay away.

For a Belfast lunchtime audience, I was surprised how few people turned their heads at this point!

Apparently I have to take some personal responsibility for this tasteless image being shared with a hundred or more lunchtime festival goers as I suggested that CQAF’s Sean Kelly check out the show during its Edinburgh Fringe run. Who thought I’d help bring pornography (even if devoid of eroticism) to Belfast?

By reaching down to the level of the gutter, the show succeeds in its mission to highlight examples of the poor standards of journalism and lack of editorial leadership in national newspapers. Maybe it was the lunchtime audience – always a downer for comedy – that meant some of the material ended up falling in-between being funny and being preachy.

While some changes have been made to the show to reflect the publication of the Leveson report and various legal proceedings, I wonder whether in the months ahead the show will need further updates to reflect how newspapers are adapting (or not) to tighter regulation?

If you want to explore the messed up world of tabloid journalism, check out Rich Peppiatt’s show as One Rogue Reporter tours the UK.

The Out to Lunch Arts Festival has reached its half way point - check out the programme for lots of great shows still to come.

Update - Andrew Johnston has posted a review for Culture Northern Ireland.

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