Published in the Guardian
First we were outraged by the crimes of Jimmy Savile. Then we felt betrayed: had the innocence of 1970s light entertainment been a sham? Behind the showbiz sheen and the naff joviality, had evil been lurking? Had everything been false that we thought to have been true?
What if, speculates Rob Drummond in this unsettling new play, there had once been a quiz show called False? What if it had been the task of the excitable contestants, all toothy grins and waves to the camera, to provide truths to the quiz master's lies? And what if, many years later, the truth behind the programme itself had been exposed? What if, instead of cheap prizes and cheery escapism, the show had left behind deep psychic trauma?
Drummond, whose solo show Bullet Catch opens in New York this week, does not give us an easy ride, despite the play kicking off in jovial form on a TV-studio set of orange and purple garishness designed by Andrew D Edwards. Here, three panellists are testing their mettle against Jonathan Watson's smarmy host whose questions are growing ever more surreal. It's very funny and, as the studio audience, we gamely clap along. When the play lurches into darker territory, our willing participation seems to make us complicit.
The play is imperfect: by withholding information, Drummond can seem to string us along and when, finally, he explains himself, he risks stating the obvious (child abuse is bad). But what Quiz Show does quite brilliantly, not least in Hamish Pirie's bold and expansive staging, is give theatrical form to the nightmare of a disturbed mind, one riven by false and repressed memories. The uncertainty felt by contestant Sandra, superbly acted by Eileen Walsh, is the same uncertainty we have trying to trust this slippery play. It leaves us uneasy, haunted and chilled.
Until 20 April (0131–228 1404). Details: www.traverse.co.uk