Theatre review: Quiz Show, Edinburgh

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AS the theatre audience take their seats, Gerry the floor manager and assistant go through the motions of preparing the set of the televised quiz show, False!

Traverse, Cambridge Street * * * *

Gerry (Steve McNicoll) sets the scene, breaking the fourth wall to let the theatre audience understand that they are also the live studio audience for the TV show.

We are to applaud on cue, for we are all complicit in what is about to unfold. We are also not to leave our seats, whatever happens. Some chance.

The opening scenes are a very funny pastiche of 80s TV quiz shows. The conceit of False! is that the compere – a gloriously cheesy Jonathan Watson, keeping his theatrical hand in between his better known TV comedy turns – delivers a series of statements.

The contestants, Molly (Gail Watson), Ben (Paul Thomas Hickey) and Sandra (Eileen Walsh) then have to challenge the falsehoods, replacing them with a truth.

The direction of the plot is signalled at this early stage by the fact that the prize on offer is no less than ultimate truth.

Difficult to say more without spoilers but, suffice it to say that, from the early whimsy, things take several turns for the darker.

It is a packed and relentless 90 minutes with no interval, not even a pause for scene changes.

The cast and the direction keep the audience going along with just about all the stages of an increasingly dark and troubling psychological drama.

By the end, the glitz and the fancy staging have been stripped away to one character, on a chair, talking the audience through the meaning of what they have just seen, bringing the threads and strands together.

In its best moments, Quiz Show is achingly topical and poignant, squaring up to some difficult themes, particularly as the opening sentiment, ‘you are all complicit in this’, is recalled.

The cast is excellent, the staging and direction exciting and pacey, all working to bring Bullet Catch creator Rob Drummond’s script vividly to life.

Bit of a thin crowd on the night, which was a pity – Quiz Show really deserves to be Rob’s full house.

• Runs until 20 April