In a world where scrolling through our newsfeed and checking our Instagram stories is a big part of everyday life, it can be hard to tell where truth ends and fiction begins. Transferred from Chichester to the West End, Quiz couldn’t be more relevant. James Graham has used the 2001 coughing Who Wants to be a Millionaire? scandal to question the very idea of truth, in a production that is both hilarious and heart-pounding.
From the very beginning, the play subverts all expectations. The audience arrives to quiz sheets and keypads on their seats before Keir Charles prances onstage to warm up the crowd, blurring the lines between theatre auditorium and TV studio. While not the easiest audience to warm up, Charles is brilliantly irreverent and soon has us cheering and high-fiving each other.
Once the play kicks off, we’re catapulted swiftly between courtroom and gameshow. Wonderfully self-aware and packed with slick multi-roling, this production depends on its talented ensemble. Charles switches seamlessly from warm-up act to gameshow host. It’s a performance that’s played for laughs and they come thick and fast. Meanwhile, Sarah Woodward transforms herself from defence lawyer to glamourous assistant to an opinionated member of the public, with a tongue-in-cheek deftness that constantly surprises.
From out of this lively extravaganza come Stephanie Street and Gavin Spokes playing the Ingrams, the couple convicted of defrauding the nation’s favourite game show. This everyman and everywoman come to feel like the realest people in the play, and Street and Spokes bring a touching vulnerability to the roles. In a nail-biting to and fro where we’re flung between believing them guilty and not guilty, it’s ultimately left to us as the audience to make our verdict using our keypads. The couple were found guilty in court, but the audience verdict (for the performance I attended anyway) puts a question mark around the truth as we saw it in 2001.
Part courtroom drama, part TV showbiz, Quiz cashes in on the nation’s love of quizzes to ask big questions about truth and justice. A real success, it provides pure entertainment and gives us plenty to think about in the process.
Quiz is at the Noël Coward Theatre until 16th June 2018.