Theatre Review - The Rise and Demise of Kenneth Kennedy-Smythe, – The Kings Arms, Salford – Wednesday 19th June 2013

The Rise and Demise of Kenneth Kennedy-Smythe

The Rise and Demise of Kenneth Kennedy-Smythe - Credit: Elysion Productions

Rob Gemmell reviews The Rise and Demise of Kenneth Kennedy-Smythe by Elysion Productions at the The Kings Arms, Salford

Written and Directed by: Mike Heath

Produced by: Gayle Hare

The Rise and Demise of Kenneth Kennedy-Smythe is a satirical, political comedy that centres primarily on war and the power the media holds over what people choose to believe and what they are allowed to believe.

The ‘demise’ in the title opens the play for us and from there the action is played in sections each neatly titled via a projector screen at the back of the stage and cleverly filmed sequences and musical interludes. The story, as the title suggests, then depicts the rise to fame of war correspondent Kenneth Kennedy-Smythe, his perseverance to show the truth and to voice his beliefs, but balanced with the love of a good woman. Jennifer, the woman in question, is a royal correspondent who finds herself climbing the ladder that Kenneth is slowly falling from.

America has bombed France in an unprovoked attack and it is a move that the Queen herself desperately wants to try and hide from the front pages. In a meeting with Jennifer she orders her to ensure the focus is taken off the attack on France and focused on other areas including fabricated stories of non-existent events. Kenneth wants the public to know the truth and the pair soon find they are vying for a different outcome. When Kenneth is shamed in a public toilet and sacked from his job at the BBC he becomes more defiant in his quest to show the truth, but the media can be a powerful foe.

The overriding theme of the play is media power during war and the controversy that surrounds it. We see from the outset what control a journalist does or does not have over what the public see. It is not the control of the journalist themselves, but more to do with the media outlet responsible for broadcasting the stories. The power that people hold can quickly become aggressive and they will stop at nothing to silence someone. The play’s depiction of the Queen shows her having a lot of control over the media and also the power to force drastic actions against people. It is also about the perception that we have about journalism being made up of lies and deceit.

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Mike Heath’s writing weaves expertly through humour, drama and reality. There are real moments of pure hilarity that will have you crying with laughter, but moments where you start to ponder real life and question how much of his beliefs and ideas are true in the world that we live in today. The speeches that the actors perform in Heath’s script were very well written, they were important and in some cases they were imperative for us to hear.

Darren John Langford portrayed the role of Kenneth Kennedy-Smythe with a defined eloquent and aristocratic air. His comedic performance and mannerisms coupled with his warmth and charm truly lead to him becoming the character and not just an actor portraying a role.

Carly Tarett played the role of Jennifer Talia in a varied and professional manner. Her ability to adapt her character to a scene was exceptional and she performed the role with such professionalism. Every part of her performance was finely detailed from the large monologues to the subtle glossing of intricacies of her character.

Both actors portrayed other roles as well, but without glamorous and time consuming costume changes, instead opting for simple, minimalistic visual changes and performance that let the audience define their own belief of the character.

Though this is an idea and a story that has been created and worked on purely for a sense of entertainment there is an element of truth and reality that is lying within. It will definitely alter your view of the world and how we see it, or are allowed to see it.

When the power of war takes on the power of word sometimes the pen truly is mightier than the sword.

Elysion Productions are a multimedia Production Company formed in 2011 who work with the local talent to produce new theatre and film productions across the UK. For more information visit their website at

For more information about The Kings Arms and to see upcoming events visit their website at - @RobGemmell1