‘Meta’, “(of creative work) referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self referential”. From live broadcasting to dissecting the story within a script, or the script, Network toys with technology and the whole thing is just very, very meta.
Network, written by Lee Hall, explores a (not so) dystopian future of the media, particularly in relation to politics, in which entertainment value and viewers account to more than solid facts. Central character newsreader-gone-anarchist-prophet Howard Beale (Bryan Cranston) urges UBS’s viewers to get mad as hell, and that they do. Cranston, although obviously ‘mad as hell’, is also badass as hell in the role of Howard Beale. He spurts and spits and cries and crawls and ultimately brings the house down with a stellar performance (did we expect any less?). The constant countdown and forced applause creates an on-edge yet repetitive atmosphere, allowing us to understand Howard Beales frustration at the ‘bullshit’ cogs that turn day in, day out.
Imagery is key with Ivo Van Hove’s direction; he toys with god-like silhouettes and stark colours, prompting us to remain engaged. Four heads peep out from behind a sound desk centre stage, and like big brother, they watch. The snazzy, jazzy beats of BL!NDMAN quartet (said heads) experiment with tension, unconventional sounds and chilled out music of the decade. The play is highly male-heavy, with Michelle Dockery essentially playing the only female character. The character, Diana, is at least of substance; ambitious, smart and complicated with Dockery’s added classy sex appeal (I think I’m allowed to say that?!).
The clattering of knives and forks drifts from Foodwork, the on-stage restaurant, occasionally breaking through the subconscious to remind me of a podgy-all-american-family eating livers from trays on their laps whilst being drawn in to the sweet white noise of the television, and suddenly I’m watching the 70’s commercials in the background instead of the on stage action and just like that I’ve let my focus drift to the simple, easy images rather than listen to the deeper conversations; a message embedded within this piece. Oh and we all got mad as hell and got to boo Donald Trump at the end, which is a plus. - Faye Butler