The Front Page

August 10, 2018 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆     Extreme energy

St Ninian’s Hall (Venue 230): Mon 6–Sat 18 Aug 2018
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is more nervous energy in Edinburg Theatre Arts’ The Front Page at St Ninian’s Hall than in five average Fringe productions, and the result is very pleasing.

Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s brilliantly constructed story, about hard-bitten newsmen waiting to cover the execution of a cop killer, has been revived and reworked countless times.

Mags McPherson, Suzie Marshall, Felix McLaughlin, Ben Petrie, Edith Peers, Danny Farrimond. Pic Stefan Heumann The Front Page Edinburgh Theatre Arts EdFringe 2018

Mags McPherson, Suzie Marshall, Felix McLaughlin, Ben Petrie, Edith Peers, Danny Farrimond. Pic Stefan Heumann

Despite the subject matter and some outdated attitudes, it can seem rather tame by modern standards. Indeed, it is much more like a forerunner of the Hollywood screwball comedy – hardly surprisingly, since it is the basis of the celebrated Cary Grant – Rosalind Russell vehicle His Girl Friday.

There is a frenetic edge to the production, with the tight confines of St Ninian’s invaded by a huge cast. At times the stage seems too small to hold them all, and director John McLinden uses the whole auditorium beautifully.



Much use is made of characters talking over each other, with an atmosphere of buzzy activity conjured up, although never at the expense of comprehension. Wise-cracking, fast-talking reporters and time-serving, self-serving officials abound. It may be a comment on our times that, even when they are content to let a man die for political gain, they seem almost sweet compared to today’s versions.

There are far too many performers (21 speaking roles, with only one instance of doubling) to namecheck everyone, but performances are of a very high standard throughout.

storming start

Felix McLaughlin’s cynical newshound Murphy is suitably nasty, while the contrast between Ben Petrie’s fresh-faced appearance and the prurient ‘human interest’ angles chased by his McCue is very effective. Other journalists – Danny Farrimond’s pernickety Bensinger, Edith Peers’s worn-out Endicott, Mags McPherson’s solemn Wilson – help to create an ensemble feel which gets things off to a storming start.

Edith Peers, Matthew Jeorett, Felix McLaughlin, Mags McPherson. Pic Stefan Heumann The Front Page Edinburgh Theatre Arts EdFringe 2018

Edith Peers, Matthew Jeorett, Felix McLaughlin, Mags McPherson. Pic Stefan Heumann

When the pace of the action drops a little, and the narrative is more character-led, director McLinden and his cast come up with some very impressive interactions. David McCallum gives Hildy Johnson, the reporter at the centre of things, a winning combination of self-loathing and humorous self-knowledge, and his partnership with his utterly amoral editor Walter Burns (David Gibson) is a good one.

Even better is the double-act between Derek Marshall’s corrupt Mayor and Colin McPherson’s hapless Sheriff. There are a couple of occasions when McPherson elongates moments of comic embarrassment right up to their greatest possible length, to tremendous effect.

Ryan Faulds (hoodlum Diamond Louis) and Kerry Trewern (Hildy’s prospective mother-in-law) have considerable comic presence, while Kirsty Doull gives Hildy’s fiancee Peggy an exasperated charm. Suzie Marshall’s Mollie Malloy has a brittle humanity that makes her treatment by other characters all the more affecting.

An impressive set (design credited to the company generally), and some banjo playing before the show and in the intervals from Stefan Heumann, help create the atmosphere. This is a production whose length and pace tend towards the exhausting but is, ultimately, extremely rewarding.

Running time 2 hours 45 minutes including one 20 minute interval and one 10 minute interval
St Ninian’s Hall (Venue 230), 40 Comely Bank, EH4 1AG
Monday 6 – Saturday 18 August 2018
Daily (not Sun 12, Thurs 16) at 7.30 pm
Matinee Saturdays at 2.30 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/front-page

Company website: www.edinburghtheatrearts.com

Facebook: @edinburghtheatrearts

ENDS

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