Charles Essex reviews Frost/Nixon at the Priory Theatre, Kenilworth
The suffix ‘-gate’ entered the language because of a relatively minor burglary of a political office, but like a butterfly flapping its wings leading to a tornado in Brazil, this led to the downfall of the president of the world’s most powerful country. But the story did not end there. Like many people who had been in the public eye, former-president Richard Nixon could not resist the lure of publicity and the limelight and, for a fee, accepted David Frost’s offer of a series of interviews.
A clever use of a rotating stage giving three simple yet effective sets allowed the discussions to take place between Nixon and his aides, Frost and his advisers, and even in an aeroplane cabin. For those old enough to remember the main protagonists, which was definitely not a requirement to enjoy this excellent political drama, the first half developed Frost, the chat show host, and Nixon, the embittered defeated president, with witty dialogue and laugh-out-loud moments. Both were flawed in their own ways with pride and narcissism.
This was a play of two halves, the second being extracts of the four interviews. Tensions rose in the Frost camp as the interviews went from bad to worse with Frost on the ropes to the frustration of his advisors. Colin Ritchie with his usual well-perfected bluster played a loyal supporter in the Nixon camp. Frost’s career and reputation were teetering. It was only a late-in-the-day discovery of incriminating evidence that led Nixon to admitting in the last interview his complicity in wrongdoing. Sean Glock as Frost, as in his other recent performances, again gave an outstanding performance of supercilious self-admiration.
Hats off to The Priory for their willingness to stage a political thriller, which this reviewer considers one of their best performed and engaging plays.
* Frost/Nixon runs until Saturday February 3. Visit www.priorytheatre.co.uk or call 0333 666 3366 to book.