Clarion Calls Out Against Immigrant Bashing

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 34 months ago
Clarion Calls Out Against Immigrant Bashing ★★★★☆ 4

Photo: Simon Annand.

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

Why is it that the ideological battle between left and right (or, as it often seems when bludgeoned out on stage, right and wrong) is often theatrically portrayed as taking place in a newspaper office? Maybe it's because it allows for despots, in the form of editors and proprietors, to bully and rave, and journalists to pontificate at length about ethics in a way that perhaps wouldn't be plausible (or as easy to write) taking place around the family dinner table.

We'll forgive Mark Jagasia a bit, since he's a former journo himself; this being his first play, he can write about what he knows. And unlike the noisy but hollow Great Britain, he's using his newspaper setting to look underneath the anti-immigrant rhetoric currently being spouted by UKIP and some of our more rabid tabloids.

The Clarion has splashed on a sensationalist anti-immigrant front page every day for 300 days, but at what cost? A letter has been found in the readers' pile that seems to have been the manifesto of a white extremist, encouraged by what the Clarion told him day in, day out, to blow himself up in a Blackburn mosque. Did editor Morris collude in a cover-up to save the paper from charges of inciting racial hatred?

Let's not pretend for a moment there's anything here we've not heard played out in satire before, though it does have extra charge when watched this close to an uncomfortably anti-immigrant election and the drownings in the Mediterranean. What elevates Clarion above the pack is its rich, fruity dialogue that tumbles with invective and imagery (and is funny to boot) and the performances.

Two in particular stand out: Clare Higgins as a star columnist who's seen better days, wrestling her conscience and need to make a living; and Greg Hicks as the increasingly deranged editor, whose story culminates in an extraordinary spittle-flecked tirade about what the British people want, how only he — like Nigel Farage — knows what they're really thinking.

Clarion is on at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, until 16 May. Tickets £14-£19. Londonist saw this performance on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 23 April 2015