Moscow Live – HighTide Festival, The Cut Halesworth

With the televised leader’s debates currently generating huge public interest, it is an interesting time to examine the relationship between the state and television news.

How is journalistic freedom compromised if you find yourself working for a state controlled television station?

That’s the starting premise of Serge Cartwright’s debut play at the HighTide Festival. Drawing on his own experiences of working in a Moscow news room, Moscow Live is set in an English Speaking 24 hour news channel in the Russian Capital.

It’s March 2006 and English journalists Richard, Neil and Helen have signed up for a lucrative contract to work in Moscow but in return have to cope with cross cultural misunderstandings with their Russian colleagues Anna and Oleg. Meanwhile news anchor Jonathan is trying to battle through a 16 hour shift.

Tensions are therefore already running high when news of the death of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic while awaiting trial for war crimes breaks and causes panic in the newsroom.

While the English journalist’s spring into action to report the news, their Russian colleagues point out that a Russian audience, and more importantly the State, will expect a very different take on the story. Who has the correct version of the truth and what version will get broadcast.

Cartwright uses his insider knowledge to craft a thought provoking piece that explores not only the workings of a high pressure newsroom but also the pressure of work interrelationships. It’s an accomplished piece of writing exploring complex themes of censorship and cultural differences without ever judging or taking sides.

Strong performances from the ensemble grip from the outset aided by punchy direction from Jonathan Humphreys. Kieran Bew’s harassed stand in Editor Richard and his Russian Deputy Anna (Jeany Spark) in particular stand out but there is not a weak link in the cast.

Moscow Live deserves a long and successful future and together with Ditch shows that HighTide has hit the mark with new writing once again.

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