Recognition. Remorse. Resolution. The three r’s provide a framework for celebrities and brands, or rather their agents, to apologise to the public. Such strategies come in handy, particularly when live broadcast and social media have created more opportunities than ever for the rich and famous to say the wrong thing. Cuttings explores the fall-out, and the messy business of saying sorry.
Cuttings is a brilliant and perceptive comment on public relations in the 21st Century. When YouTuber-turned-actor Arthur Moses delivers a foul-mouthed acceptance speech at the Olivier Awards, his publicists scramble to repair the damage. Featuring writing as sharp as its title, superb performances in three distinct roles, and a surprisingly nuanced take on industry inequality, Cuttings is a delight.
The three publicists are well-drawn personalities, with differing opinions on how to rehabilitate their client’s image. Danica (Maisie Preston) is the sweet but rather over-privileged junior straight from gap year travels, while Gracelyn (Joan Potter) is the no-nonsense industry veteran, appropriately experienced in boxing and showbusiness. Ruchi (Natasha Patel) is perhaps the moral heart of the story, whose desire to help Arthur is motivated by more than just contractual obligation.
As the show progresses, we learn that doing the right thing is not always best when you’re trying to win a publicity war. Cuttings is a fine comedy, with dialogue full of smart quips and put-downs, but there is great depth and subtlety too. The strength of Ollie George Clark’s writing is in the characters, all of whom have own reasons for acting the way they do, from personal morals to business prestige, and are explored in a way that is both entertaining and revealing.
From a production standpoint the show boasts slick direction from Rob Ellis and a wonderfully detailed set from Caitlin Abbott. A busy office is brought to life with illegible Post-It notes and a cupboard overflowing with promotional material. I loved all the little details, like the wall-mounted punching bag, and the framed film posters which are naturally replaced depending on which client should walk through the door.
Cuttings is a hilarious and timely send-up of celebrity faux-pas and the changing nature of publicity in the digital age. The play is full of clever observations about how the internet has changed the way people interact with their fans, but also serves as a reminder that, while opinion may have become democratised, the industry is a long way from being equal. Cuttings deserves publicity, and all the good kind.
Cuttings is showing at the Hope Theatre until June 22.
Book tickets on the website.