Kismet Gold
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Newsroom dramas

There is a moment before the start of 'All the President's Men' that gives me goosebumps: the audience sees a white screen, then 17 seconds later…a loud bang. It's a not a gunshot but a type bar hitting on a blank piece of paper. The date 'June 1, 1972' appears and we then see just over three minutes of President Nixon assuming his role at the White House and in Congress. And then we come to the infamous break-in scene at Watergate. It isn't until later that we join Woodward and Bernstein in the newsroom but when we do, the audience has a front row seat to not just an important setting but a character. This film is one of my favourites and in my opinion, an important example of how great investigative journalism can uncover the truth, even when it involves people we least expected.

It is this film and other similar stories that made me want to be a journalist. The determination and perseverance that the role requires appealed to me so much, never mind the opportunities to interview and investigate. But I always wondered: what happens if you make a mistake? Are you allowed to make a mistake? Unlike other roles, where you might get a warning, a journalist has to be absolutely certain with every word written or spoken, especially when you are working on a big story like in the recent award-winning historical drama Spotlight. Just like 'ATPM', this film showcased the need, even in the age of social media and BuzzFeed, of investigative journalism.

But even though these two films stimulate my inner journalist, there is another depiction of drama and intrigue in a newsroom that I want to talk about. It didn't take place in Boston or Washington DC, but in a theatre in east London. Theatre is like Marmite: you either love it or hate it. And I love it. Before January, I had seen major productions but there is something about local theatre that is so easy to fall in love with because the performances are so raw and in your face…in a good way. This is certainly the case for Coverage - a clever rendition of Julius Caesar in an American newsroom that was performed in The Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton.

Directed by Whit Hertford and written by Ashley Pearson, Coverage captures you with both the dialogue and the actors who speak it. I was lucky enough to chat to Whit and the cast about why the newsroom is the 'perfect' setting for a drama like Julius Caesar.

Q&A with Director Whit Hertford:

Kismet Gold: As you are know, this year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. In you opinion, why do you think Shakespeare is still relevant for audiences today?

WH: Julius Caesar is about three characters trying to scream at the leadership set in place, but it’s also just Caesar looking at Rome at that time and being an observational writer. So he can both be very relevant and not at all. and it’s about the excavation process a production team undergoes to answer that question of Shakespeare’s relevance each time out.

Kismet Gold: Why do you think the newsroom is the ‘perfect’ setting for a drama? And for Coverage, why did you choose an American newsroom?

WH: This was Ashley’s (the writer of Coverage) idea: Caesar as reported/mirrored by Fox News. I immediately got and loved it. We both hail from North America and have felt the sting of right-wing news media outlets and their inaccurate agendas. which is what happens all over the place in the original play. It’s a failed game of telephone. We didn’t want to skewer or be too biased. The aim was to make it feel free and for the piece to be more of a larger message about news reporting in general. Aaron Sorkin’s depiction in his HBO series, “The Newsroom” felt like a better match.

Kismet Gold: Which aspects of Julius Caesar do you think works best in an American newsroom?

WH: What makes this work in a newsroom is the simplicity and difficulty of when tragedy strikes and how is that news told to others.

Q&A with Andy Murton:

Kismet Gold: Please tell us about your character in Coverage.

AM: I played Doug, the newsroom managing editor. Dedicated to his job and constantly trying to juggle work and personal life.

Kismet Gold: Why do you think the newsroom is the ‘perfect’ setting for a drama?

AM: It’s a fast-paced, ever-changing place. It can affect events unfolding by reporting on them but is equally affected and controlled by those events. It’s a constant power struggle.

Kismet Gold: Which aspects of Julius Caesar do you think works best in an American newsroom?

AM: The politics of Julius Caesar set in this way I think highlights how things haven’t really changed in the political world at all! American news reporting in it’s sensationalism adds weight to a historical Roman story.

Q&A with Laila Bouromane

Kismet Gold: Please tell us about your character in Coverage.

LB: My character Laurel is an ambitious, young field reporter who wants to get ahead quickly. She has her own ideas of what it means to report the news, which can cause conflict with other members of the news team. She will use whatever she has to, her feminine charms and so forth, in order to get ahead.

Kismet Gold: Why do you think the newsroom is the ‘perfect’ setting for a drama?

LB: It's a high energy setting which is fast paced and thus there is often high drama.

Kismet Gold: Which aspects of Julius Caesar do you think works best in an American newsroom?

LB: Julius Caesar is a political play and this works incredibly well in the setting of an American newsroom. You only have to watch Fox News for five mins to see the news reporters promoting or tearing down political candidates for sport. The newsroom is the perfect setting for this play.

Q&A with Justin Stahley (KG client)

Kismet Gold: Please tell us about your character in Coverage.

JS: Gary is a field producer who answers to Doug. He likes potato chips and root beer. He's a professional, and damn fine at his job, however, he can be pretty sarcastic to those around him. He lives on his own.

Kismet Gold: Why do you think the newsroom is the ‘perfect’ setting for a drama?

JS: The stakes are high: tense, relationship and hierarchical issues, ego, failure, high pressured atmosphere etc

Kismet Gold: Which aspects of Julius Caesar do you think works best in an American newsroom?

JS: The way Ashley (the writer) used JC in her text worked brilliantly. I couldn't suggest anything better than that.

Q&A with Martin South

Kismet Gold: Please tell us about your character in Coverage.

MS: I'll let a recent reviewer answer that for me. "Caius Cassius (Martin South) is no longer the lean and hungry rebel but rather a charming, bullying Senator from a Southern state who is perfectly at ease smiling into the camera recalling how he saved Caesar’s life or leading an interview panel in the harsh mocking of Mark Anthony''.

Kismet Gold: Why do you think the newsroom is the ‘perfect’ setting for a drama?

MS: A newsroom setting is a great meta-theatrical device; it can accommodate just about any subject matter, and the journalistic process helps with the exposition of the story and the exploration of different ways of looking at it. Newsrooms are richly dramatic places in their own right, of course, with lots of high-stakes business going on and tight deadlines to keep up the tension. In Coverage, Ashley Pearson did a fantastic job of seizing all those opportunities!

Kismet Gold: Which aspects of Julius Caesar do you think works best in an American newsroom?

MS: This year, in particular, just about every aspect! Watching the coverage of the US primaries tells you everything you need to know about how little politics have changed in the last four hundred (or two thousand, if you like) years.

To end on a quote from Julius Caesar:

It is better to create than to learn! Creating is the essence of life.

Coverage by Ashley Pearson