Vault Festival: Life and Death of a Journalist

Where

Cage at The Vaults, Leake Street Tunnels, Waterloo.

When

25 Feb-1 Mar. Running time 1 hr.

Who

Written by Dr Jingan Young, directed by Max Lindsay. Produced by Pokfulam Rd Productions. Performed by Lucy Roslyn, Robert Bradley, and Melissa Woodridge.

What

“A reporter returns to London after covering the Hong Kong protests only to be offered a job of a lifetime … the newspaper begins to increasingly censor itself to appease its Chinese investor”.

Lucy Roslyn in Life and Death of a Journalist. Image by Ming Cheng.
Lucy Roslyn in Life and Death of a Journalist. Image by Ming Cheng.

How

The precarious situation in Hong Kong since it was handed back from the British to the Chinese in July 1997 is something hardly reported on in the West, and Jingan Young’s ambitious play is an attempt to redress the balance.

We first meet Laura (Lucy Roslyn) wearing a press jacket and a mask in a conflict zone. She promises to show us flashbacks, “fragments” from her story, in which her lover Mark (white, Scots, with a father operating his business in Hong Kong) and newspaper boss Victoria (snappy dresser, ambitious, a mix of Rebekah Brooks and Eve Pollard) feature strongly.

There’s a lot to take in through these vignettes, and I was never bored, but I wondered whether Laura was a reliable narrator when considering her own decision to effectively sell her soul to Independent News. We experience each scene from her viewpoint alone, just seeing Mark (Robert Bradley) and Victoria (Melissa Woodridge) as pieces in her recalled chess game.

Robert Bradley and Lucy Roslyn in Life and Death of a journalist. Image by Ming Cheng
Robert Bradley and Lucy Roslyn in Life and Death of a journalist. Image by Ming Cheng

Setting aside her political views against the Chinese ruling elite to one side for the pursuit of power in the girls’ club, Laura seems deeply naive, and her motivation is unclear. The opening out of the play, and a third section which gives us more insight into the territory Laura goes back to, may help.

There are hints at storylines unfinished or in need of exploration – not just the plight of Chris (the unseen colleague, under arrest), but also Victoria’s pregnancy, and Mark’s tension between being born in Hong Kong and having a Western background. The seeds are there, but they could stand a little watering.

I found the play’s design (also by Young) very apt for a piece which explores conflict from a variety of places; and the end, although it is rather abrupt, was very effective and rather chilling. Max Lindsay’s direction moves us quickly from bar to office to home, making the most of the short running time.

Judgement: Wow, Meow, or Furred Brow?

It’s a hearty Meow for Life and Death of a Journalist. Already an engrossing watch, just another couple of steps towards expansion would push this into a top-rank show. I look forward to seeing how it evolves after its Vault run.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see Life and Death of a Journalist.

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