I went to see The Reporter at The Cottesloe on Wednesday night, Nicholas Wright’s exploration of James Mossman’s final, troubled years, set across a backdrop of an oppressive Britain in a tempestuous late 60s world.
Ben Chaplin, who was breathtakingly good in Neil LaBute’s This Is How It Goes at the Donmar (I saw it on 8/7/2005 and the floor manager kindly thanked us for coming into London at such a difficult time, which made me feel guilty, that perhaps I should be at home thinking about the world, rather than so desperate to escape into fiction) repeated the feat by inhabiting Mossman completely, from the ill-at-ease cad to conspiratorial narrator. At times, Mossman came across as a Batemanesque sociopath, incapable of summoning real feeling and mercilessly berating himself for not breaking down or on occasion wishing the worst on those he supposedly loved.
The supporting characters suffered by comparison, wildcat cameraman Marco was a jumble of unstable dialects whilst Mossman’s Canadian lover Louie was utterly repellent, but confusion remained as to whether that was truly the intention. Paul Ritter as Robin Day, however, was great fun, filling the space between pantomime villain and man of principle convincingly in a series of short appearances that quickly rose above caricature.
In total it was, however, a beautiful, elegiac swandive towards a death that had spent so much time justifying itself, however obliquely, that the final tone was oddly triumphant, robbed of the biting note of tragedy it surely deserves.
As in Frost/Nixon, but perhaps not as effectively, it deftly uses events and personalities with which we’re broadly familiar to create a snapshot of uncertain times, of the death of idealism, and the notion of the public and private face.