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Dumb Show is a play by Joe Penhall.
The three-character play, directed by Terry Johnson, premiered at the Royal Court Theatre' London, September 4, 2004. It received its American premiere at South Coast Repertory in September, 2006. It was performed at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake from June–November 2011.
Fans may know him as “Mr. Saturday Night,” but the perks and privileges of superstardom have always eluded Barry. So when the promise of true celebrity beckons, he greedily takes the bait. At last he’s going to get what he deserves!
Joe Penhall’s darkly comic Dumb Show opens in a luxury hotel suite, where hot-shot private bankers John and Jane are plying television personality Barry with equal parts outrageous flattery and vintage champagne, both of which he finds irresistible. Under the guise of crafting a provocative after-dinner speech, the pair cajole him into revealing some of the seamier aspects of his off-camera life. This is more than he bargained for. So what if he’s using them to get what he wants? That doesn’t give them the right to do the same thing to him, does it? But then doesn’t the public have a right to know who the “real” Barry is (not to mention the “real” John and Jane)?
The tension mounts and the stakes keep getting higher as these three masters of manipulation take turns out-witting one another and rewriting reality according to their own power-crazed agendas. At each surprising turn, Dumb Show confronts questions of ethics, exploitation and personal morality in a culture where humiliating celebrities has become a favorite national pastime. In the playwright’s own words, Dumb Show is “about what happens in the absolute absence of compassion, where society is becoming a vacuum devoid of any real empathy and sympathy, where the only thing that’s left is an utterly plasticized, platitudinous and prurient tabloid sentimentality.”
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