DARK TOURISM Park Theatre, N4

CELEBRITY CULTURE DECODED – FURIOUSLY

I’m a bit late on the curve catching this, but it runs all week with two more matinees, so Roll up! Shudder as you savour the freakish world of celebrity PR agents, tup’n tell journalism, fake reality-shows, slut-shaming, and career dieting . Meet some of the most topically revolting of contemporary male characters: all but one equipped with seriously wrong beards, from the Mark Thompson Bristle to the Russell Brand Silkie. Applaud the author’s creation of four cracking female parts, alongside and agin these monsters.
Daniel Dingsdale, in his first and furiously eloquent full-length play, is a bit too discursive in the characters’ rants against (and for!) the cult of vapid fame, the cynical construction of narratives fed to media, and the general decline of culture, taste, kindness and modesty. But they’re very fine rants. He says in his notes that these people are heightened and bastardized amalgamations of reality, but it’s my world too, and some are credible verging on libellous…
It begins on air with two comedy DJs  – Milton a loghorreic druggy sex addict  smartarse with long hair (Huw Parmenter) , the other, Rob (Tom Maller)  a thuggy oaf. Decode that if you will. Parmenter and Maller are so accurate in tone that I actually started hating them (a few in the matinee audience booed the curtain call, which is a tribute). They riff an ooh-arent we-naughty revelation about Milton’s night with childrens TV presenter Becky, who as a result gets headlined BECKY BUMLOVE in the tabloids, is suspended and humiliated. Milton’s PR agent is Rick (Damien Lyne),  whose wolfish devotion to the dark arts is allowed, interestingly, to waver and develop into self-disgust as the disaster rolls on. His assistant Max, however, is pure, venomous manic evil, and the author plays the part himself with a sinister Brylcreemed hairstyle I devoutly hope is for stage-use only.
They set up a meeting in which, with a tabloid vixen at hand, Milton is to apologize and Becky forgive. It goes violently wrong (Dingsdale likes a showdown every ten minutes. – tiring but usually exciting) . Wronger still when some sex tapes emerge and the second act twists begin.

What I like is the author’s skill and intelligence in presenting four distinct types of young female fame, each falling foul of prurient misogyny.  Becky (a sweet Josie Dunn) is clean girl-next-door CBBC type, not looking for tabloid fame, but expected to be sexless: she loses her job and more.  Jenny is a serious actress, stalling in her career, fearing invisibility and using Rick as helpmeet: Carol is a fearful Fleet Street cynic who despises the other women and Gemma, a pout-perfect, brainlessly cunning X- for-Essex autotunie, is beautifully played, down to the last toothy smile and skip, by Tamaryn Payne: a born comedienne of whom we shall hear more.
Not a perfect play, it could do with a trim and less glee in its own eloquence, but I hope it finds bigger stages.  The author certainly will: not least because his willingness to work up narrative twists is refreshingly rare in a play so furious in its message.
box office 0207 870 6876 to 24 oct
rating three     3 Meece Rating

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