One Rogue Reporter

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

On the eve of the Leveson Inquiry report being made public, what better time for former tabloid reporter Rich Peppiatt to revive his Edinburgh show about the culture and ethics of the press, One Rogue Reporter?

Peppiatt, as he’s happy to point out, is more famous for not having a job than anything he did in employment. He was the Daily Star journalist who, fed up with the paper’s support of the far-right English Defence League – and with humiliating himself in countless preposterous articles – quit with a letter he leaked to the Guardian.

It’s too soon to say whether he could find an alternative career as a comedian – he’s still a little wooden on stage – but this zeitgeisty show certainly provides an entertaining romp through the bleak media landscape, and plays to his strengths as an almost accidental performer.

Key among them is playing newspaper executives at their own game: doorstepping Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, ambushing ex Sun chief Kelvin McKenzie with a few personal revelations, or snatching a candid upshirt picture of Mail Online’s Martin Clarke. Such encounters prove no challenge for a man who, in his tabloid days, spent a morning in a burkha or posed in the same revealing outfits as cross-dressing cage fighter Alex Reid.

Indeed, these stunts are in the best spirit of tabloid journalism: audacious, irreverent, executed with a flash of cheeky wit, and irritating to those in power. In some ways the point of the wind-ups is secondary: these are universal figures of hate, getting a small measure of comeuppance.

The output of the press is an easy target, and Peppiatt echoes the opinions of many when he mocks the Express for its countless flimsy and damaging stories about the McCanns or Mail Online for its purient interest in minor celebrities and it’s ability to make a ‘story’ out of ‘woman gets out of car’. Not that such internet operations will be subject to any Leveson press clampdown, a fact he bypasses.

Indeed, there’s plenty of more nuanced argument and counter-argument he could have covered, but this is not that show. Instead it’s an amusing amplification of the outraged or disbelieving air with which the chattering classes greet each day’s fresh batch of the trivial and the twisted. No surprise that newspaper-hating Hugh Grant and Max Mosley were in the audience in last month’s performance; or that flyers for the Hacked Off campaign are left on every table.

Yet the public continues to buy tabloid newspapers and magazines in their millions while simultaneously being outraged by them – proving readers are just as hypocritical as newspaper executives.

Well, almost. Daily Express editor Hugh Whittow’s audaciously preposterous evidence to Leveson – that his title pulled out of self-regulation because the Press Complaints Commission was ineffectual at stopping the nasty excesses of his own behaviour – is the funniest thing in the show.

That’s some reflection on Peppiatt, too, for although an amusing and engaging chap, he hasn’t got the comedian’s natural instinct for a joke or ability to interact with the audience. Instead, he often lets the situations and the press behavior speak for themselves – and they do so in volumes.

It means the night is an entertaining rallying cry for those who want to extend the curbs of the press beyond already illegal behavior such as phone hacking – and want to see some of those responsible get a taste of their own medicine.

Review date: 28 Nov 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

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