Brexit and President Trump’s election have seen would-be satirists scrambling but struggling to contain a news flood that can often seem as inherently ridiculous as it is relentless, leaving Scotland’s political culture frequently overlooked. However, News Hacks, a new monthly sketch night penned by former Watson’s Wind Up head writer and newspaper columnist Rikki Brown, admirably eschews any cultural cringe to focus squarely on Holyrood and its main characters.
News Hacks, Oran Mor, Glasgow **
Performed in the style of a radio play, with Jimmy Chisholm, Elaine MacKenzie Ellis and Des McLean standing statically reading their scripts, News Hacks is commendably topical, its problems not in ambition but execution. At 90 minutes, it’s far too long and would benefit from being cut by at least half in terms of quality control. Individually too, the sketches tend towards repeatedly hammering home a premise at the expense of twists, subtlety and consistent get-out punchlines.
Strong political leanings and a lack of balance isn’t necessarily harmful to biting satire. But Brown’s anti-Scottish independence feeling is so vehement, one-note and leaden, casting Nicola Sturgeon as a dictator with sub-Mel Brooks’ cartoonishness, that it soon grows wearing.
Mackenzie Ellis nails Ruth Davidson’s chortling bluff, while talented mimic McLean capably brings several politicians and journalists to life. But Chisholm has a tendency to smugly grandstand, exemplified by his roaring portrayal of the editor of the National, reflexively shaping facts to fit his agenda.
Sadly, it’s reflective of a production that’s a little too pleased with itself and rather too confident in the audience sharing its perspective.