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Review: Skilfully crafted entertainment that poses interesting questions - Quiz, Noel Coward Theatre

Just like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Quiz is a skilfully crafted piece of entertainment, the difference is that the questions it asks don't have simple multiple choice answers.

James Graham is proving to be one of the best contemporary writers of plays based on modern political history - Angry Brigade, Ink and This House to name just three.

QUIZ-447X792Part of that is his exceptional talent for turning potentially dry topics into gripping and entertaining theatre.

In Quiz he focuses on the ‘coughing Major’ scandal that enfolded the popular TV quiz Who Wants to Be A Millionaire in 2001 and the subsequent trial in 2003.


The Major - Charles Ingram -  walked away with the £1m prize on the night but was later accused of cheating and taken to court together with his alleged accomplices.

Performed on a set styled to look like the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire studio, complete with onstage seating to mimic the studio audience, the play is structured like a court case.

The first half plays out what happened from the viewpoint of the prosecution and the second half is the turn of the defence.

Audience vote

With electronic devices, the audience can vote on whether Ingram (played by Gavin Stokes), his wife Diana (Stephanie Street) and the other 'conspirators' are guilty or not guilty.

Votes take place at the end of the first half and again at the end of the play after which the results from the previous 10 plays are displayed for comparison.

The style and structure is a reference to the subtler themes and subtext of the play, something that becomes more evident when audience opinion is canvassed.

Behind the guilty or not guilty verdict, there is a complex web of behaviour and evidence.

Watching the play I was reminded of the famous image of a baby swimming after a dollar bill on Nirvana's Nevermind album cover. Money is the driving factor - what it makes people do, how it makes them behave.

Careful set up

Graham carefully sets up not only the Ingrams with Quiz-obsessed Diana and her money pit brother but also the producers of the TV programme showing us the how the show came into being and went on to be such a success.

In the queue for the loo at the interval, an American lady asked 'Was Chris Tarrant really like that?' to which there was collected response of 'yes!' Keir Charles is superb in the role but Tarrant's 'performance' was always carefully calculated to create tension and anticipation.

I remember my sister complaining that if he didn't pause for so long, they'd get through a lot more contestants but the pauses were pregnant, had a purpose, it was all part of the manipulation of the contestants and the audience.


Was there manipulation in the evidence for the prosecution too? This was hugely successful and lucrative show owned by a media giant going up against the man on the street.

Graham's play presents the evidence and then leaves the conclusion to the audience as evidenced by the final vote.

I won't reveal the result of the verdict for the night I was there except to say it reflected that the story is far from an open and shut case.

Just like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Quiz is a skilfully crafted piece of entertainment, the difference is that the questions it asks don't have simple multiple choice answers.

You can see it at the Noel Coward Theatre until June 16, it is 2 hours and 30 minutes long including an interval and I'm giving it five stars.

And try and get on stage seating if you can, it's a great experience.