Frost/Nixon review – Peter Morgan's showdown fits the fake news era

Sheffield Crucible
Morgan’s play on the clash between the chatshow host and the US president gets a timely, entertaining revival

​This 12-year-old play by The Crown writer Peter Morgan probes the 1977 televised interviews between David Frost and disgraced US president Richard Nixon. To salvage his own career, the ​talkshow host desperately needed to get Tricky Dicky to admit his guilt and apologise to the American people for the Watergate scandal.

Why revive it now? Fake news, spin and the Robert Mueller inquiry into White House connections with the Russians ​all loom​ over Kate Hewitt’s beautifully choreographed production. It turns the huge Crucible stage into both a TV studio and the gladiatorial arena in which ​David takes on ​an already toppled Goliath. Both are fighting for their professional lives.

Is Frost ​capable of delivering the knockout blow? The pleasure of Morgan’s ​piece, not the greatest play but always a ferociously entertaining one, is that it milks the drama as it pits two flawed men, both seeking rehabilitation, against each other.

Jonathan Hyde is magnificent as the ​tarnished president, his features a defensive cliff that ​crumbles ​in a flood​ of tragic self-knowledge. Daniel Rigby’s Frost is no less fascinating, a man who is such a self-invention he conducts his entire life as if spinning plates in the air.

The play – which knowingly melds fact and fiction – is a slippery interrogation of accountability and truth and the way that our perceptions are influenced by media images. Andrzej Goulding’s video design repeatedly demonstrates what Nixon so prophetically observes: “​Television and the close​up create their own set of meanings.”

• At Sheffield Crucible until 17 March​. Box office: 0114 249 6000.


Lyn Gardner

The GuardianTramp

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