In a world of real time, attention grabbing, 24-hour news we consume content at a such a rapid rate it’s often hard to tell fact from fiction. Without the long-lost profession of sub editing, miscommunication and mistakes fall through the cracks and the capacity for fake news increases.

Based on real life events, The Lifespan of a Fact dissects what happens when the truth gets in the way of a good story and the moral implications of elaboration.

When an eager young intern Jim (Karl Richmond), is tasked with fact checking an essay written by John D’agata (Steve Mouzakis), for a high-end publication, his razor-sharp focus pulls apart the seams of the essay and reveals the creative licences D’agata has taken for a more colourful narrative. It’s a fast-paced farcical story with American sitcom energy that takes just 90 minutes to make its point. The overzealous Jim refuses to back down on the many inconsistencies within the essay, and his compulsive instinct to only publish the absolute truth is admirable if not a little unlikely. What begins as a fact checking mission becomes a more insightful debate on what can and cannot be published. Be it for legal reasons, ethical implications or reputation, The Lifespan of a Fact asks when does fact become fiction, and who gets to decide just where that line into falsehood lies.

Richmond is delightful as the overly competent Jim and delivers a wildly energetic performance with the kind of confidence only a 20-something can deliver. Mouzakis is Abbot to Richmond’s Costello, his stoic performance with momentary lapses into comic rage are the perfect contrast Richmond’s youthful exuberance. Joined by the iconic Nadine Garner, whose role as editor Emily brings the two male characters together in the vaudevillian style dramedy.  I was disappointed in Garner’s role, while not in the original text written by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal, she is introduced in the play as a means to connect the clashing personalities of the pair, yet is allowed little more licence than of a two-dimensional character. Garner does her best with the material, but ultimately is constrained to the stereotypical function of “hard-ass editor” and then later “mediator/mother” figure as the three attempt to reach an agreement on what is an acceptable amount of truth.

The sets are dynamite, as Andrew Baily takes the audience from Emily’s stark, sleek office, to D’agata’s 70s inspired, run down living room with the flick of a switch. Director Petra Kalive has created a sitcom-esque reality, where the dialogue is weaponized, shooting back and forth between characters in a never ending came of tennis.

The Lifespan of a Fact is a pertinent piece of theatre and incredibly relevant in today’s 5G fast society. There were hints to a deeper backstory into the characters and I would have liked to have seen this explored, especially in the case of Emily who I felt had much more to say. Ultimately, this story based on true events isn’t difficult to believe, and while the text does attempt to reach a more profound conclusion, it unfortunately doesn’t quite make it. It’s a fast and fun play that asks the audience where they sit in a post truth era of journalism and just how important are the facts.

Event details

Melbourne Theatre Company presents
The Lifespan of a Fact
by Jeremy Kareken & David Murrell and Gordon Farrell | based on the book by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal

Director Petra Kalive

Venue: Fairfax Theatre | Arts Centre Melbourne VIC
Dates: 15 May – 3 July 2021
Tickets: $45 – $116


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