Live at Six

Had a great time last night at “Live at Six” at Downstage. It is an invigorating mix of interactivity and technology, that wonderfully depicts how our television broadcasters differently deal with a scandal involving one of their own.

The play formally starts at 8 pm, but if you turn up early to the Downstage bar from 7.30 pm, you see the “scandal” in question. You’re even invited to record it yourself, and upload it.

This is the video I shot of a “tired and emotional” Jane Kenyon collapsing in the bar of the Qantas Media Awards. Kenyon is the lead anchor for One News. Helping her up is Nick Dunbar of 3 News, who used to work with her at One News.

Do be warned that if you do turn up early to see the incident, then you may end up featured quite prominently on the screens in the theatre itself. Yes, they use the actual footage from that night, rather than the same stock footage. This is very impressive when you consider they have just a few minutes to do it in.

Then when the play starts you see the news teams of TVNZ and TV3 at work in deciding how to report the story. Is it even a story that someone fell over in a bar? Well it is, because the video gets placed on the Internet, and is all over the blogs (they even have a line when they realise it is now up on Whale Oil).

TV3 of course is gleeful at the story. Michele Amas plays news boss Sue Austin and she is absolutely ruthless, yet endearing, in exploiting this to the hilt. A highlight is when Kenyon, played by Jessica Robinson, goes on the roof of TVNZ for some fresh air (she can’t leave the building). Sue yells for them to not just get a zoom lens on her, but to make sure they get a camera down the bottom in case there is a splat to cover.

As you get the idea, it is a very cynical, yet hilarious (and some would say accurate) depiction of the media. They also use social media very effectively in the show. You see blogs, Stuff, You Tube, Tweet Deck, Skype etc. But they manage to use them in a way which they are natural parts of the plot, not just gimmicks to show they are with it.

Tim Spite was hilarious as 3 News news reader Gordon Miller. He was happy to go along with anything his boss proposed, unlike the conflicted Nick Dunbar (played by Derek Fontaine) who is friends with Kenyon and wants her treated fairly.

On the One News side, Donogh Rees was captivating as corporate executive Karen Adams. A former news presenter herself, she was now the woman managing the crisis for TVNZ, and was a first class manipulator. Phil Vaughan played Tim McGregor, Kenyon’s immediate boss, who wanted to do the right thing, so long as it didn’t muck his day up too much. Jessica Williams was great, as usual, in the lead role.

You also had the strange competitive friendship between the two news editors, played by Eli Kent and Barnaby Fredric.

The show was pretty much flawless. The script was excellent, and the actors were superb. The running time at just under two hours was just right, and they had the interval at just the right point. While most of the focus was on the character interactions, the plot has a couple of very nice twists at the end which you don’t see coming.

Their use of technology was excellent, and it is a tribute to their support staff, that they managed to do it with no hitches.

It was my first Downstage play since they had a six month hiatus. A great production to lead off with, and an excellent night’s entertainment. Highly recommended for a fun night out.