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Quiz - Melville Theatre Company

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan

 

If you’re looking for something a little different including some audience interaction, this might be the show for you. This vignette-style play centres on the true story of Major Charles Ingram and the coughing scandal that surrounded his 2001 win of £1,000,000 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.


From a performance perspective, Benjamin Small does a good job of Major Charles Ingram, the central character to the whole plot, but doesn’t give a lot of emotional range to bring us into the circus that consumed his life. He nails the nervous energy of the man in the middle of the maelstrom, but we miss what his life was like around it all which makes it hard to connect with the character. On the other hand, Ruhama Rowe gave us varied sides of Diana Ingram, from stoic and plotting through to emotionally hurt by the events, and Jayma Mathewson also brought a good deal of power to the defence QC, Sonia Woodley, especially during the dialogue-driven courtroom scene in the second act.

In comparison to a lot of plays, Quiz requires a large ensemble cast alongside the Ingrams, with 40-plus characters between them. Vanessa Jensen has shown her directorial stripes here, ensuring that strong physical and accent choices have been made by a lot of the ensemble members to work through the differentiation of characters. Phil Bedworth, Paul Reed and Brian O’Donovan should be commended in that respect, with very clean and clear changes between characters to the point that it could almost be forgotten they had been someone else moments before.

The flexible costuming (base layers of black for those playing multiple roles) allowed for quick switches between the supporting and minor roles. This was especially effective in the case of the quick changes between the different Game Show Hosts in the first half, with the blazer changes almost reinforcing the similarities between the hosts and highlighting Murray Jackson’s skills in differentiating these characters. There were some fit issues when it came to the more military-driven costume, which did detract somewhat from those scenes, but getting appropriate costumes of this style can be difficult from a sourcing perspective.

The set is impressive, with truss and lighting to mimic the Who Wants to be a Millionaire hot seat set-up, but this large piece does limit the amount of space available for the other vignettes around the space. The use of an onstage screen was good, but it might have benefited from being a little larger or more centrally placed. The transitions between scenes were quick and efficient, with little time lost to scene changes on the versatile set. The lighting, whilst delineating different spaces and allowing for these quick transitions, didn’t add a lot of atmosphere and it would’ve been nice to have some warmth or colour variation between the courtroom side and the events being replayed. This also might have aided the audience with following where we were - a struggle that always exists in vignette-heavy, time-jumping shows. The soundscape around the game-show elements was good, but again, some of the scenes could have done with their own soundscape, again to bring us further into the world.

Most of the issues with this show lie within the script itself. Whilst the content and structural concept is interesting, some of the audience participation elements, like the pub quiz, feel like unnecessary padding and slow the show down. The second act is much stronger, from a writing perspective than the first, in part because we already know the order of events. Additionally, the second half seems to hold the emotional core of the show, finally giving you something to hold onto, which is lacking in the first half.

Definitely a fun show, and a must for anyone who loves a pub quiz or a bit of media-driven drama. Be part of the jury, test your Quiz knowledge, and get a peak behind the curtain into how the scandal may well have all played out.


Benjamin Small (Major Charles Ingram) and Ruhama Rowe (Diana Ingram)

Reviewer Note: Kate has previously been directed by Vanessa Jensen, and previously performed at Melville Theatre, most recently in 2022. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.

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