Click to enlarge Jess Robinson as TV One's scandalised anchorwoman
Time, not truth, is of the essence in "Live at Six", a satire documenting the rivalry between two New Zealand television news stations, TV One and TV 3.
After video of a TV One news anchor looking to be under the influence of an illegal substance is leaked onto YouTube, both stations attack, scheme, and skew in the hopes of coming out on top with a better story by the time the clock strikes six .
In this world of television news every fact can be spun, every friendship is expendable and conscience impedes rather than guides the journalistic process.
"Live at Six" confronts the morally confused frenzy that has clouded the headline-hungry television news scene. What constitutes a story? What is newsworthy? What is news? These are questions the characters in "Live at Six" struggle to answer.
The deadline of six o'clock bears down on their fraying values, and it becomes a race to see who will snap first, and who will sink lower to delivery the juiciest story. As it happens, the truth is often just too dry.
The first full-length play for writers Dean Hewison and Leon Wadham, "Live at Six" is a snappy, sassy and well-crafted debut. Characters are natural and underplayed but give glimpses of greater depth.
After a particularly compromising moral debate over the questionable editing of an interview, a TV 3 reporter calls home to speak to his daughter who has been rebelling at school.
"You keep fighting the good fight, darling," he says, though visibly defeated from his own recent stand against authority. What good is the "good fight", one wonders, when "good" doesn't sell?
The tension and confusion in the two newsrooms creates a perfectly heated environment for blunt, sharp humour, edged with desperation and frustration.
The presence of technology is a constant throughout the play. Monitors play back the YouTube video and media editors are constantly in their booths, splicing, dubbing and skewing. To fully appreciate the immediacy of the digital age, be sure to attend the 7:30 pre-show. It is worth it.
At the end of the play one station stands taller, having manipulated the headline to the best of their ability -- but some are still left feeling doubtful.
"We all played our part!" Says one proudly.
"Yes. That’s the problem." Says another.
Though the role of a "good" journalist is blurred through the course of the play, the subsequent shame of some of those involved in the story's final cut leaves one with the hope that perhaps truth will not be overrated forever.
For more information about show times and ticket sales for "Live at Six" please visit the BATS Theatre website: http://www.bats.co.nz/