Frost/Nixon is Peter Morgan’s highly intelligent 2006 political play now being performed at the Oxford Union. The play details the famous interview, between David Frost and Richard Nixon, following the 1972 Watergate scandal. The brilliant writing and convincing acting means this complex issue is effectively transferred onto the stage.
The Debating Chamber is completely transformed and actors are on stage before the play even begins. Consequently, as soon as the audience walk through the door, they are made to feel as if they have entered a 70’s television studio. The seemingly effortless scene changes, carried out by the ensemble, means the television set effectively doubles up as an aeroplane, dining room, bedroom and office. A projector hangs from the balcony, providing us with footage from the scandal, as well as live filming of the stage performance. Despite dealing with a serious political issue, the play has a lightness achieved through the dry humour which ensures it is entertaining whilst retaining its depth.
The acting is superb. Every member of the cast is utterly believable. The play is crafted so the narrator, Jim Reston (Johnny Purkiss), steps out of the action, at frequent intervals, to clarify the various events. Purkiss swiftly moves between his roles as narrator and assistant, whilst maintaining a consistently flawless American accent. The second half of the play was particularly gripping and Aleksandr Cvetkovic, as Nixon, really came into his own – chiefly through his emotionally charged telephone call with Frost, the night before the final interview. Cvetkovic’s characterization of Nixon showed true dedication to his role.
It must be said though, that one actor really stood out- Ed Barr-Sim gave a five star performance. His mannerisms, voice and hand gestures were so convincing that from the moment he walked on stage he really was Frost. He was believable in every sense and most certainly the presence that held this wonderful production so impeccably together.
Despite being a play about two divisive camps, it exudes a tenderness which we do not often find in such political pieces. Just as Morgan stresses the human side of our monarch, in his most recent production The Audience, in Frost/Nixon he emphasises the concerns and insecurities of the president and allows us to glimpse a softer side of the seemingly self-confident Frost. Although they are fundamental opposites, these two men build a rapport which is beautifully captured through the exchange of a gift in the final scene.