With a running time of less than an hour, Squint’s Broken News at the New Wimbledon Studio Theatre packs in an energetic production with a compact story fit for the micro-narrative society that we are becoming. Here I am referring to our obsessive nature of consuming media in bite-sized chunks, cramming in updates on politics, world news and friends around our already hectic lifestyles… Broken News weaves three interconnecting stories of people pushed to their limits, trying to balance their work and personal lives. These are contrasted against the slightly philosophical narrative of Percy Spencer, inventor of the microwave oven – the device intended to give us the freedom of time.
Considering Squint has only been working on the script of Broken News along with the staging for a matter of months, it is surprisingly slick in both narrative and direction. Adam Foster, Claire Shaw and Andrew Whyment condense their writing into a gripping series of stories that interlock, and, thanks to Whyment’s direction, never allow the audience’s attention to dwindle as the scenes flow with choreographic precision. Helen Coyston and Aaron J Dootson’s design and lighting for Broken News work perfectly at creating atmosphere and picking out the details within Whyment’s direction. What starts as an explosion of movement across the stage is quick to hook in its audience, leaving just enough clues for us to be guided through the story with fluiditiy. It’s good to feel that you’re experiencing a developed script, and whilst I might have wanted more (an hour is never enough for good theatre to thrive within), it’s difficult to fault the writers’ intention. Their message is clear and it is delivered with creativity, instead of the trite ‘we’re too overworked and have little time for ourselves and our loved ones’ theatre that is common.
The ensemble cast are committed and engaging to watch. They offer just the right level of characterisation and meet the demands of Whyment’s direction well. The stories which focus on Spencer inventing the microwave oven, a scientist trying to assist in curing dementia, a businessman desperate for the next big invention, and a news researcher trying to get her big moment, are interconnected cleverly and provide ample emotion and depth. There is a slight tendancy for some of the cast to shout their lines, and given the small space of the New Wimbeldon Studio Theatre this really isn’t needed, but otherwise the cast are a solid team.
It’s good to see a production that doesn’t try to be bigger than it is. Broken News is as entertaining as it is committed and energised, with a creative team who think imaginatively in a small space. It’s clear that Squint is a company to keep an eye on. As I left the theatre and turned on my phone again, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps Broken News is right, we are far too connected to our work and we really just need more time. If the microwave oven was meant to free us from the time needed for cooking, then Broken News becomes a nice wake up call for its audience to claim back the time the microwave oven has saved and to invest it in something more human – those around us.
Broken News is playing at the New Wimbledon Studio Theatre until Saturday 7 April. For more information and tickets, see the Squint website.