The Independent London Newspaper


THEATRE: Tabloid terror and the dark side of journalism in The Atheist at the Lion and Unicorn

Jonathan Chambers in The Atheist Photo: Ciaran Cunningham

Jonathan Chambers in The Atheist Photo: Ciaran Cunningham

Published: 15 November, 2012

THE Atheist is not a particularly easy show to enjoy. It’s a gritty, nasty tale about the dark side of journalism and an audience should be prepared for uncomfortable honesty, dirty secrets and distasteful behaviour.

All that to one side, it is an interesting tale, relevant to modern tabloid culture and leaves you with plenty to mull over.
This satire on catching the perfect front-page headline, whatever the cost, follows the story of a cynical US news reporter, clawing his way up the journalistic hierarchy from trailer trash roots to celebrity.

The most thought-provoking aspects of the play lie in the idea that rather than being a naturally despicable character, this single-minded, morally bankrupt individual was actually created – and continues to be fuelled – by a lack of empathy on the part of his mother.

This gives weight to the idea that his future is not altogether predetermined and that, if offered love and human kindness, he may yet be saved.

Jonathan Chambers gives a convincing performance of the wolfish, sly side of Augustine Early, his confident body language expressing his ability and desire to stay in control, to be the winner, beautifully.

His portrayal of the other characters isn’t quite as strong. It would have been more engaging to see more of Early’s delicate balance between his ambition and his need for salvation.

While he claims to discover the best of himself through others we never really feel like there’s anything genuinely good behind the nasty facade.

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