Dark Tourism, Park Theatre, review: ‘Unfunny, obvious, unwise’

This satire offers nothing new in its send-up of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross’s radio show furore, says Marianka Swain.

Back in 2008, Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross prank-called Andrews Sachs, claiming Brand had slept with his granddaughter. Daniel Dingsdale’s debut opens with a similar incident: two radio shock jocks, one a pale imitation of Brand, and a joke about anal sex with a wholesome children’s TV presenter. Unfortunately, this play says nothing that hasn’t already been articulated in the intervening period.

Dingsdale’s targets are broad and obvious. The cynical celebrity culture, fuelled by publicists, tabloids, reality TV and fame-hungry, talentless wannabes. The erosion of private lives and disingenuousness of social media. Our hypocrisy in denouncing the paparazzi but poring over their snaps, illustrated by a Princess Di reference.

Loaded issues like date rape, revenge porn, slut shaming and violence against women are chucked in with cavalier tone deafness, while a criticism of glossy mags that demonstrate self-inflicted female objectification needs further development. Lucy Kirkwood offered more nuanced exploration in NSFW at the Royal Court three years ago.

Laddish radio has some topicality with the XFM revival, but Dingsdale’s painfully unfunny duo rehash hoary arguments: they’re equal opportunity offenders, free speech protectors, and their PC-gone-mad opponents must learn to take a joke. A confrontation with Becky, object of their “banter”, is passionately delivered by Josie Dunn and Huw Parmenter, but feels like educational role-play.

Sketchy subplots see a ditzy X Factor product milking her 15 seconds of manufactured fame, an American actress fighting a career slump, one PR stuck in a bizarre feud with an entertainment reporter, and another suffering a midlife crisis. The latter quoting – and thus inviting comparison with – the mighty Network is unwise.

Adam Lenson’s production is unevenly paced, lively moments giving way to stilted lapses. At its worst, it is as mean-spirited and vacuous as the culture it’s satirising.

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Rating: 1/5 stars

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