Tell It Slant, Hope Theatre

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Emily Dickinson

Maev Mac Coille’s Tell It Slant, inspired by her time as a Senior Press Officer for the House of Commons during the 2017 London Bridge attack, looks at those behind the headlines. The internal press teams of organisations who deal with phones ringing constantly and urgent emails. Marketed as romcom where the two leads switch roles Mac Coille’s script is underwhelming and confused.

The decision to not write the characters with a specified gender sounds great on paper but seems to limit what background and depth the characters can be given Dara is a press officer is this unspecified industry, Vick is a journalist embarking on a career change into communications and their history (both personal and professional) should be focal point of this drama. The actors alternate their roles and I think the inability to get to grips with a character lead to stilted and underdeveloped performance from Joshua Jewkes as Vick, which contrasted with the confident Dara played by Cliodhna McCorley, whose confidence in her work is knocked when she is part of the story but I wasn’t convinced by their relationship or even their place in the play, with support from Vincent Shiels and Alia Sohall as their colleagues Alex and Sam their presence doesn’t move the story along, we don’t get to know the characters well before the events unfold to know how they have changed and developed. Audiences should be curious to see the roles swapped but this leaves little to come back to.

Mac Coille has so much to say; about misinformation on social media, about the role of the press spreading rumours online, about how exhausting being in comms is but with a romantic element to throw in everything gets lost in this 75 minute play. The office setting should provide a claustrophobic and tense atmosphere as we see how the broadcast outlets are reporting the story as it unfolds with mistruths and truths jumbled but Constance Villemot#s set design of a large table seems to really limit the cast, stuck behind desks, writing on white boards. The “lessons learned” scene should be a climatic blame game of but it has no focus, no tension it just feels like an actual office meeting. Erica Miller’s direction works best when she is given something to play with, working against the confines of the desk when Dara has to charm a colleague into ceasing social media rumours which are unfounded. The unfolding drama showing that Mac Coille understands the rush of adrenaline but the climax comes too soon leaving the rest of the play to falter out.

With some focus and development Mac Coille has the potential to be a dramatic and engaging writer, it just needs to be clearer what she wants to write about.

Tell it Slant is on until 14 March

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