I’m mad as hell and I cannot take it anymore! The stage becomes a screen where hundreds of faces are projected while screaming into their mobile phone, I’m mad as hell and I cannot take it anymore! This is the most powerful scene in a perfectly choreographed and perfectly acted play, a spin off from a cinematic release from the seventies. In Sidney Lumet’s film, Peter Finch landed the role of the anchor-man/ newsreader going mad live on tv, announcing his suicide live on TV. He becomes the news because, in his words, he could not handle the bullshit anymore, the bullshit he was reading while doing his duty as a news reader. On stage Bryan Cranston takes over the role. His performance is up close and personal, he is seeking contact with his audience, literally sitting next to a young member of the audience “I see you have dressed up for the theatre” he quips coming out of character, breaking the barrier between reality and narrated story. Wow, he gets in and out of character in a split second, never loosing his concentration for one second. I am impressed, his performance is powerful and flawless. Having a Hollywood star and such a professional as your lead helps but the play works perfectly because Dutch director Ivo Van Hove has created a perfect mechanism, moving from video to live performance smoothly, conjuring the chaos of the TV world, its cynicism, perfectly telling the story of the divide between old style journalists and the new sensationalist approach to all that is shown on TV, including the news, in the name of ratings, share and eventually profit. The message is powerful, the performance is pyrotechnic, full of surprises and fun visual effects. Moreover Cranston’s presence is a sure hit and such a joy to witness. I can’t help but notice that his mocking eyes are still teaching a lesson to the youngster in t- shirt and baseball cap while bowing for the final applause, as if to say, this is the theatre man, make an effort.
Network, National Theatre, London 23 January 2018