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THE FRONT PAGE by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur
Venue:  Donmar 1997
Directed by Sam Mendes

Cast in order of appearance
Wilson   The American Nicholas Gleaves
Endicott   Post Ian Gelder
Murphy   Journal Martin Marquez
McCue   City News Desk Mark Benton
Schwartz   Daily News Hilton McRae
Kruger   Journal of Commerce Keith Bartlett
Bensinger   Tribune Adam Godley
Mrs Schlosser Tilly Tremaine
Woodenshoes Eichorn John Hodgkinson
Diamond Louie Tim McMullan
Hildy Johnson   Herald Examiner Griff Rhys Jones
Jennie Sara Pelosi
Mollie Malloy Lizzy McInnerney
Sheriff Hartman Ian Bartholomew
Peggy Grant Rebecca Johnson
Mrs Grant Tilley Tramaine
The Mayor Christopher Benjamin
Mr Pincus Neil Caple
Earl Williams Simon Gregor
Walter Burns Alun Armstrong


Very few American stage comedies have reached classic status. In fact, I can think of none other than The Front Page. One reason that it as stood the test of time is that it is a perfect period piece, redolent of the early thirties, with all its madnesses caused partly by the Depression. Another is that it has a social conscience, one of its writers, Ben Hecht having impeccable left-wing credentials, while the other, Charles MacArthur, was a great humanitarian. But its chief virtue is that it depicts the life of newspaper-men, warts and all. For all their ruthlessness and competitive energy, their hearts are in the right place as they bicker and josh each other in the press room of Chicago's Criminal Courts Building, awaiting the execution of Earl Wllliams, social inadequate and suspected communist, who has shot a policeman.

At the personal level we have the feeble attempts of Hildy Johnson, ace reporter, to escape this nerve-jangling but oddly satisfying environment into the security of a job in advertising, a part made to measure for Griff Rhys Jones who, although his American accent and rather high-pitched voice may not be entirely convincing, is unparalleled at playing men driven into desperate situations because of their own guilt. But even he is outshone in this production, set in Mark Thompson's magnificently grubby press room, by Alun Armstrong as the bellowing and unscrupulous managing editor Walter Burns, who will do anything to get a story, partlcular1y if it involves politicians as shifty as Christopher Benjamin's mayor and Ian Bartholomew’s police chief. Every other member of this 20-strong cast contributes a marvellous cameo, including Simon Gregor as the terrified Williams. Lizzy McInnerny as his besotted admirer and Rebecca Johnson as Hildy's uncomprehending fiancée. A fast-moving delight from beginning to end.