When it was announced that Enquirer would be coming to the Belfast Festival, I may actually have punched the air with joy, so much did I want to see the play described as a “bittersweet elegy to the newspaper industry”.
This up-to-the-minute, verbatim account of journalism today, produced and staged by the National Theatre of Scotland, examines not just the shady dealings which have been the subject of the Leveson Inquiry, but the current state of the industry whose role is to bring to account those who rule over us.
Enquirer is based on interviews with more than 40 journalists, woven together into short scenes.
Author Andrew O’Hagan has worked on the script, which is surprisingly candid about events that have taken place in newspaper offices in recent years.
It looks at how journalists obtain their stories, the threats facing papers, and suggests we shouldn’t be in too much of a rush to wash newsprint off our hands forever.
Director John Tiffany was moved to create Enquirer because of his lifelong love affair with newspapers: “I grew to love what the best kind of journalism could do for a nation, in its own eyes, and for a nation in the eyes of the world: the possibility of truth being sought and valued, of power being held to account, became a central plank of what animated
my sense of what life could be,” he says.
“I loved the idea that, while I walked and talked and learned who I was, while I grew and even while I slept, great journalists were busy establishing the first draft of history. I believed then, as I do now, that journalism — in all its forms, both entertaining and enlightening, but especially investigative and analytical journalism — is a fundamental element of any good and thriving democracy.”
He believes the rules and commandments once held by journalists — We Shall Not Lie, We Shall Not Sell Out, We Shall Not Simplify, We Shall Not Corrupt — are in danger of vanishing, as the industry struggles to survive.
And he asks, what has been lost, and what can be saved from this once noble profession. In Enquirer, journalists offer the answers ...
Enquirer, Lesley Buildings, Fountain Street, Until November 4