A simple cough can be a very powerful thing: just two years ago it could have been life-threatening. A little over a decade ago it possibly meant winning one million pounds.
The story of Major Charles Ingram’s appearance on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, the ensuing court case, and his subsequent conviction for fraud was itself an amazing story.
Quiz takes that and playfully turns it into something else, with James Graham’s script asking the audience to take their own view on the guilt or otherwise of Ingram, his wife Diana, and fellow quiz show contestant Tecwen Whittock. Graham also weaves in messages of social justice, questions of objective reality, and the morality of psychological options in warfare, all while managing to be very very funny.
The comic success of the production is in no small part down to Mark Benton. While impressionist Rory Bremner’s appearance as Chris Tarrant is supposed to the big draw, Benton’s turns as the judge, Millionaire “hacker” Paddy Spooner, and even a drunken karaoke singer murdering Craig David’s Seven Days are what bring the biggest laughs – making even his fellow cast members corpse.
Bremner does do a fine impersonation of Tarrant but is used relatively little on stage, and seems to enjoy a cameo as Coronation Street‘s Hilda Ogden much more than the main gig.
As the Ingrams, Lewis Reeves and Charley Webb give the impression of an awkward, odd, but strangely likeable couple – so much show that the first night audience in Norwich, when asked to vote on their guilt, overturned their conviction by a wafer-thin margin.
Robert Jones’ design perfectly captures the feel of the TV show, but it also seamlessly copes with Graham’s melding of the court room process, flashbacks, and pub quizzes, incorporating live video with the on-stage action.
It’s a clever, cryptic, and comic show that transcends its subject matter and becomes something hyper-real, acknowledging the difference between truth and an entertaining lie – you’ll need to see it yourself to decide which is the more fitting description.
- Quiz continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until 4 November 2023.