So Bryan Cranston is in town, doing Network on stage at the National Theatre. Mr Cranston is of Breaking Bad fame, yet another big name that will fill the seats with non-critical and adoring fans.
Normally I would give this a wide berth, except that I was keen to see the production and the reviews made it intriguing.
So it’s two hours and no interval. The huge stage is divided into three: a tv control box to the left, a fully functioning restaurant with chefs to the right and the main stage.
If it all sounds a bit gimmicky, well, maybe it is, but all the parts, plus the projection into the audience and the aisles are used to good effect.
The story has been stripped of the terrorist plot, mostly, and the cast has some well-known names. Some details have been changed, to raise the Cranston part slightly. He gets the best anecdotes. One change is the Arthur Jensen speech, done in the film by Ned Beatty. Here it is delivered from the balcony top left in a quiet and considered way, very menacing and effective. Except, the very last line has been removed.
Oh, and across the top are four musicians doing a kind of Kraftwerk soundtrack.
Some of the shoutyness of the original film has been retained. For us, this was not good. Cranston as Howard Beale is not as world weary or just plain tired and Peter Finch, but he is still good in the part. There are plenty of stage tricks to involve the audience, great use of a team of camera people and a big screen.
There’s an attention to detail that you don’t expect at the NT too.
At a time when the President of the USA is a failed property developer and reality tv star, what they play has to say about the realities of life still apply. 3% of Americans read books, 15% read newspapers. To most, what is reality is what comes out of the tv. It’s unquestioned. If we add the world wide web now, it’s everywhere.
Until end of March. Tickets? Well, good luck with that!