Great Britain (London) OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Johan Persson




Opening Night:
June 30, 2014
August 23, 2014

Theater: National Theatre / Upper Ground, South Bank, London, UK, SE1 9PX


Richard Bean’s fast and furious new play is an anarchic and foul-mouthed satire about the press, the police and the political establishment. Billie Piper plays Paige Britain, ambitious young news editor of The Free Press, a tabloid newspaper locked in a never-ending battle for more readers.

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Great Britain (London)

    Seamy World of the British Tabloid Arrives Onstage
    Richard Bean’s ‘Great Britain’ Opens at the National

    Ben Brantley

    July 1, 2014: Which one is she? Where is the woman we have gathered here to see pilloried? Where is, you know, Rebekah Brooks? A rather ingenious moment of audience-baiting confusion occurs amid the hail of dum-dum bullets called Great Britain — Richard Bean’s relentless satire about the phone-hacking scandal that brought down a newspaper — which opened on Monday night at the National Theater amid gleeful expectations. Up to that point, we have assumed that the onstage stand-in for Ms. Brooks, the sphinxlike news executive at the center of the corruption investigation into Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, is the play’s title character, Paige Britain, played by a bodaciously blonde Billie Piper. But suddenly in a scene set on the yacht of a Murdoch-like mogul, a new suspect slithers into view, a lissome figure with curly auburn hair and a Mona Lisa smile. The audience laughs at this apparition — a rival, it turns out, to our unscrupulous heroine and named Virginia White (note the scansion), played by Jo Dockery. For she is the spitting — or should we say salivating? — image of our Ms. Brooks.

  • THE GUARDIAN REVIEW OF Great Britain (London)

    Great Britain review – from phone hacking to MPs' expenses

    Michael Billington

    June 30, 2014: Richard Bean doesn't do things by halves. His new satirical comedy has a go at press, police and politicians, and covers just about every scandal of the past five years from phone-hacking to MPs' expenses. But, while his play is as broad as it is long (close to three hours) and attacks too many targets, it has the bracing quality of topicality and is written with real verve. Bean's chief bile is reserved for the newspapers, here represented by a fictional tabloid called the Free Press (though glancing references are made to a paper called the Guardener whose masthead boasts "we think so you don't have to"). At the Free Press, the mission statement is "we go out and destroy other people's lives on your behalf". And, although it has a multimedia Irish proprietor and a foul-mouthed editor, the chief focus is on Paige Britain, its dynamic news editor who has little time for democracy and whose chief urge is to be part of the country's ruling elite.

  • TELEGRAPH REVIEW OF Great Britain (London)

    Great Britain, National’s Lyttelton Theatre, review: 'Laughter gives way to shame'

    Dominic Cavendish

    July 1, 2014: Has Richard Bean put the “Grrr” back into Great Britain? His new play – hot off the presses at the National, having been rehearsed in secret during the tail-end of the £100m phone-hacking trial – was fuelled, we're told, by blazing anger. Best known for that runaway farcical hit One Man, Two Guvnors, Bean has been incensed by the intrusive, illegal carry-on in Fleet Street and the merry-go-round of cronyism and corruption that has shaken public faith in police and politics too. “20 people who talk to 20 people who talk to 20 people,” is how he thinks the country has been run. He has penned a vitriolic, bluntly entertaining comedy that initially has the audience tickled pink with its levity, then finally blushing red with national shame. At first, it’s as if Bean – a former stand-up who loves gags clever, coarse or corny – might have been watching too many episodes of TV sketch show Little Britain. Taking us into the offices of a nasty, formerly lefty tabloid called The Free Press, he introduces us to a gallery of vipers, weasels and leeches, caricatures all.

  • THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF Great Britain (London)

    Great Britain, National Theatre, review: Billie Piper 'excellent' as tabloid editor

    Paul Taylor

    July 1, 2014: Clearly nobody from a rival outfit has been hacking the phones of dramatist Richard Bean and the National Theatre’s artistic director Nicholas Hytner or they wouldn’t have been able to spring this bracing surprise on us. Last Tuesday, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was convicted of conspiracy to hack phones. The next morning at a hastily convened press conference, the NT announced Great Britain, a satire by Bean about the cosy, corrupting relationship between sections of the press, the police and the political establishment. The theatrical world is as prone to tight-lipped secrecy as a Trappist monastery to uncontrollable gossip so it’s a real wonder that the NT has been able to keep this project – which has been in rehearsals for months – under wraps. Does it live up to its unusual occasion? By and large, yes. This is laughter-making on an industrial scale (to adapt a phrase) and it’s a farce with fangs.



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