Making News until 25 August
You Know Me… I’m Jack Ruby until 24 August
The BBC faces another crisis of its own making—will another Director General fall? Meanwhile, 50 years ago, Jack Ruby awaits his fate in a Dallas prison after shooting Lee Harvey Oswald.
Ripped from the headlines shows litter the Edinburgh Festival Fringe every year, but two of the best examples this year are the slick multi-cast drama Making News and the accomplished solo show You Know Me… I’m Jack Ruby, which may be drawn from the news of 50 years ago but those stories will be raked over once more this coming November.
Making News is inspired, but not directly based upon, the BBC crises of recent times, from Jimmy Saville to the fall of the Director General and the Newsnight debacles. An acting head of news (Suki Webster) is faced with a story about the BBC itself, and is caught in the middle of conflicting advice from the news editor (Dan Starkey, Doctor Who‘s comedy Sontaran Strax) and a passionate reporter (Liam Williams). Can the Director General (Phil Jupitus, who only appears in two scenes, both incendiary) really be connected to a way out cult and be channeling public money to support them?
Some of the staging needed work (Williams seemed to spend half his time on stage with his back to the audience), but this is a fast moving, slickly produced piece that slightly veers off into fantasy in an attempt to avoid anything too close to real events. As her mental status deteriorates, the acting head of news sees herself facing a group of Daleks on a TV screen (and Doctor Who gets a couple of mentions in the show, as well as through the Starkey connection). In the end, it’s entertaining, but perhaps a little hollow in its avoidance of real life targets.
Actor Clifford Barry (who also wrote the script) is mesmerising in You Know Me… I’m Jack Ruby, and not only because he looks the part clad in the orange jumpsuit of the American penal system. Commanding a bare stage, apart from a packing crate to sit on, a tin mug and a rolled magazine, Barry inhabits Ruby, drawing the audience in with his intimate confessions and confidences. Some clever lighting (at select points Barry is bathed in a harsh red light), and judicious use of audio inserts between scenes, brings to life the plight of Ruby, as he sits in his cell awaiting trial for his killing of accused JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
This is still an tricky subject matter, even 50 years on. To us now, Ruby is something of a cartoon caricature, the nightclub owner who took justice into his own hands. Did he do it “For Jackie and the kids” as Ruby claims here, or was he a tool of the Mob, or were even darker forces at work? Those questions have fuelled conspiracy theorists for years, but Barry is having none of it. He humanises Ruby, offering a reasonable justification for his actions and depicting a man so sure of himself initially that he expects his “friends” on the force to ensure his rapid release. As time passes and his trial ensues, Barry subtly depicts a man slowly disintegrating before our eyes, physically and mentally. It’s a bravura performance.
Verdict: Rush to see Ruby, meander to Making News…
Making News: 7/10
You Know Me… I’m Jack Ruby: 9/10
Brian J. Robb
You Know Me, I’m Jack Ruby: