Losing the Rag
A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Aug 27 – Sept 1st
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
Newspapers, especially the local variety, have been under the cosh for some time now as circulation falls and advertising moves from printed paper to pixelated screen. It would seem, with publications big or small, the medium is the message or as a succinct blogger might put it, Gutenberg … 0 Berners-Lee … 1. This is certainly the case with the Avondale Advertiser where Derek (Gerry Mulgrew) a stressed-out, old-school editor, is under pressure to boost digital ratings and avoid staff cuts. The 34 year veteran of journalism prowls his office despairing at the inaccuracies that litter his publication. With the newspaper’s owners, Mental Mickey the local junior football team manager and possibly Kim Jong-un on his case, he is a man with a strong-tea habit, feeling the strain.
Perhaps salvation lies with his second in command Susan (Louise Ludgate) who started journalism in the days of clattering typewriters and fag-fug newsrooms. She’s been working for some time on an exclusive involving a politician’s dodgy expenses. Could a financial scandal be the big story that saves the wee paper and secures jobs? There’s more than a hint of arrested development in the third member of the team, young Barry (Martin Donaghy) who hurtles to work on a BMX bike, headphone-cans clamped to his ears. He’s a broad-strokes, funny-photo sort of journo, with little idea of the consequences of getting the facts wrong. Yet might his youthful insouciance and social media savvy, trigger the online hits his paper needs or is his ‘Deadpool’ T-shirt an ominous prediction of the fate awaiting the press in all community newspapers?
Alan Muir’s play takes an amusing look at the troubles facing traditional journalism when it has to compete with wacky web content for site hits. Although free online material is an issue, the main problem this fictional newspaper seems to have, is the incompetence of staff who fail to notice the numerous errors and mix-ups that pepper the publication. Injudicious quotes, misplaced adverts, wrongly captioned photographs; these faults are not caused by internet rivals. Maybe that’s the message – lower the standards of traditional journalism far enough and you get the equivalent of what dubious cyberspace has to offer.
Not a headliner but a fair start to Oran Mor’s new season of lunchtime plays.
David G Moffat