Review: Fake News (rating 3/5)
This show has already received some glowing reviews from high places, so there was no surprise that it drew a sold-out audience. Twenty minutes in and I have to admit I wasn’t sure why it had attracted such praise. It took the final 10 to realise where the story was taking us and why Osman Baig, performer and writer, had won such plaudits.
Thanks to Donald Trump, fake news is topical, and the title alone was bound to attract attention. The story here, told in a fast-paced monologue, concerns a budding journalist who lands a job at the country’s biggest online news organisation, stumbles on the scoop of the century, then finds out it’s not true. What comes next underpins the show’s message.
Baig is a former journalist and TV producer at CNN, Sky, Al Jazeera and others, so he knows his subject matter and how journalism has become hostage to clickbait and a need to make money. He trained as an actor which means he’s able to lift what could have been a dull lecture into a lively performance.
The denouement is thought-provoking and even a plea for the protection of real journalism. I have to admit that it took a little while for the point to be made. Baig’s script starts off promisingly but dwells too long on his office friendships and opinions on Pret A Manger (why?) which had a few in the audience shuffling impatiently in their seats. The meandering plot was in danger of becoming boring. Once Baig gets through this middle muddle and discovers his “scoop” the story picks up and it all starts to make sense.
Or is this just another fake news bulletin? Baig’s message is focused on the changing nature of “news”, yet journalism has always been the business of telling a story according to the available facts and information. The first take on history, as they say.
As such it is always subject to interpretation. The real fakers and manipulators – the sources and protectors such as PR agencies and people in powerful positions – are barely touched on here and might have added something of value for the audience to take away.
Assembly, George Square, Studio Four, until 26 August (except 12 and 19)