REVIEW: Frost/Nixon

Despite a technically glitchy start and a few dodgy accents, Frost/Nixon is a decent production of a compelling script.

It's funny, how topical Nixon and Watergate feel. Day after day, the news is compelled to compare the actions of Donald Trump to those of Nixon, whilst simultaneously reminding us that the Watergate scandal took years to unfold, that the investigative democratic process is slow. And that even after Nixon resigned, it would be another three years before the American people would get anything close to a confession. Frost/Nixon is a play about how that confession eventually came to be.

In moments, I could only think about how well the play works as a film.

In moments, I could only think about how well the play works as a film.

The show stays simple in its set, and in the rather more awkward moments of staging where a character had to stand in a scene without saying anything, or transitions that took too long and broke the pace of the show, I could only think about how well the play works when translated from stage to screen. Unfortunate, too, were the missed opportunities with the music; in a play set in 1977 and with so much hinging on the creation of atmosphere, there was fun to be had there and like many of the tech creative choices, it felt flat.

Robin Franklin is endlessly charming as David Frost

Robin Franklin is endlessly charming as David Frost

Regardless of a few tech problems at the start (the TV screens placed at either end of the stage failed to work and the first few sound cues seemed off), the play is strengthened by two compelling lead performances from Robin Franklin (endlessly charming as David Frost) and Joe Tyler Todd (skillfully avoiding a hackneyed Nixon impression), and shines in its second half, where the relationship between the two is explored. Where some of the weaker members of the cast (Thomas Grieg as Jim Reston, or Toby Waterworth as Swifty Lazar) detract from their own performances with dodgy-at-best American accents, the leads successfully inhabit their complex characters, making for some truly captivating interactions.

It seems for the most part to be a rather uneven show: the scene, for example, where Nixon rings Frost unexpectedly to talk about their shared need to prove themselves and be liked works extremely well, whilst Frost's flirtation on an airplane with a potential love interest is more cringey than anything else.

Frost/Nixon is a perfectly enjoyable night at the theatre: the story is absorbing and topical, with some laughs and a resonant thesis about the blurred line between politicians and entertainers. But you wouldn't miss too much if you just watched the film.

3/5 stars

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University of Cambridge