"Open the box...no take the money"

Frankly, I have to say that last week we slummed it theatre-wise. On Monday it was "Aladdin" and Wednesday it was "Quiz" at the Noel Coward Theatre.

That's not to say "Quiz" wasn't quite good. You may recall the trail of  Captain Charles William Ingram who in 2001 won a million pounds on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire". He, his wife and Tecwen Whittock a lecturer were accused of cheating. For the uninitiated the show offered the contestant 4 answers to a question put to them by Chris Tarrant. The questions got harder and the prize money increased as the contestant correctly answered the preceding question. Charles Ingham got all the way to winning £1000,000 - not a small sum. Except he and his "accomplices" were accused of cheating. Ingram's was given a signal - a cough - which indicated the correct answer. 

The play was built around the court case - to my mind a connivance too far. We had the judge, prosecuting and defence councils and a jury - the theatre audience that night. And we had the game show - we were the TV show audience. Which meant that before the play/quiz proper began we had the warm up comedian. We, the audience, also had quiz sheets and a remote buzzer - as used on the show. 

In the  first half the play re-constructed the events leading up to the winning of the £ million as seen from the prosecution's case. It was a conspiracy. The Ingrams - in particular Mrs Ingrams - had found a way to get on the show and to win the fastest to the buzzer contest used to select the contestant for the main prize competition. It all seemed rather dodgy since both she and her brother had previously been on the game show and won £36,000 each. 

Captain Charles Ingram was pretty poor at quizzes - even though he'd had qualifications by the bucket load, but to ensure he'd always answer the questions correctly his wife and Whittock would be there with a helping hand - or more accurately - a cough. That was the claim brought against them and the first half played that out. 

In the second half it was the defence's turn. There was no conspiracy. There was masses of hard work to get on the show , win the buzzer round and then a huge amount of digesting useless facts to be able to answer the questions. Captain Ingram, despite his degree in Engineering, his MSc in Corporate Management and membership of Mensa, was shown to be pretty poor on the uptake when it came to quizzes. But a determined wife and lots of lucca at the end pushed him on. He was shown to be a diligent army officer and loving if ineffective husband.

At the end of the first Act we the audience, as jury, were asked to vote "Guilty or "Not Guilty" - we found them "Guilty by a landslide. After the Second Act a "Not Guilty" verdict was returned by the audience. That was it; we went home wondering what was the truth of the matter. 

In fact all three were were found guilty by a jury at Southwark Crown Court in April 2003. The trail wasn't straight forward in that originally the jury found the two men guilty of conspiracy but not Mrs Ingram. Since a charge of conspiracy requires all three accused of the crime to be found guilty the judge sent the jury away to reconsider. They changed their mind finding the wife also guilty.

Ingram was in court again the October of that year on fraud charges arising out of an insurance claim. He was found guilty. He was kicked out of the army, and wrote a highly successful book about his "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" adventures.

"Quiz" isn't really a play: more a theatrical event. The characters were slightly drawn, used to carry the story. Only the character of Chris Tarrant - whose facial expressions were grossly exaggerated - was of interest and the source of much laughter. It was a clever idea - although as I've already mentioned I thought the court scene effect was laboured. 

It was, hoawever, a couple of hours of good entertainment. What more can you ask for in the current climate?


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