Old newspaper building echoes to drama
City Final, Coventry Telegraph building, to Saturday, July 14.
Does it feel real? Well, the old Coventry Telegraph building, where I spent 19 years of my working life, has a familiar corner or two left in it, amidst all the emptiness. And the headlines on bill posters scattered through the corridors light a few sparks of stories remembered. But the newspaper's owner, Lord Iliffe, is barely out of his teens and his senior editors look very junior to me.
In our team, dubbed the trainees, we're on a mission to find and restore the heart to said Lord Iliffe, who appears to have mislaid it in a clash with the spirit of the city. We're going to do so by re-visiting some of the stories that have shaped his newspaper and the city's history over more than 50 years, and helping us along the way are more than a hundred performers drawn from the Belgrade Theatre's nine youth theatres and 50+ community groups.
There's a powerful picket line scene from the bitter miners' strike of the early 1980s, a genuinely tense press conference in the wake of an air crash in Willenhall that claimed five lives, and the bitter fall-out of a life lost in police custody.
There are strong performances in there too, notably from a Pakistani shopkeeper unwilling to accept unthinking, crude racism, and a group of local residents who feel utterly betrayed by the airport authorities.
If there's confusion in one or two of these tableaux, and a sense at times of continuity being lost, then the huge cast makes up for it with crackling energy and commitment. And the spaces in the old building are beautifully used, notably in the final scene in one of the press halls.
All the news that's fit to print? Not really, but a thought-provoking exercise in story-telling to give the old place a nudge towards its very different future.
Tickets from the Belgrade box office on 024 7655 3055 or online at www.belgrade.co.uk
Main picture: The bitterness of the miners' strike revisited in the old Telegraph press hall. Inset, Lord Iliffe is brought back to life.
NOTE: City Final is one of two shows in the Coventry Telegraph building under the Read All About It banner, the other is Retold which is reviewed separately.