As the only President of the United States to ever resign during office, Nixon rides out the backlash of the Watergate Scandal on the West Coast of America. Seeking absolution and an opportunity to defend his actions and his presidency, Nixon agrees to a series of TV interviews with little-known talk show host, David Frost; a socialite, playboy and lightweight television presenter. With Nixon desperate to clear his name and Frost having both self-financed the project and placed his career on the brink of ruin, each of them have everything to gain and everything to lose. But Frost is not the pushover Nixon expects, and the two enter into a verbal sparring match where only one will emerge with their credibility intact.
This political thriller is an utterly absorbing piece of theatre which shows the audience the events in front of the camera and behind the scenes of the now infamous interviews. Both Daniel Rigby and Jonathan Hyde not only excel in their respective roles as Frost and Nixon, but also captivate the audience, with Rigby capturing the mannerisms and intonation of Frost perfectly; and Hyde portraying Nixon with an underlying vulnerability beneath his confident outward persona. These are incredibly strong central performances and the interplay between the two actors is mesmerising as the themes of corruption, abuse of power and exposing the truth are played out.
Kate Hewitt’s direction is relatively solid, making use of the stage, adding projected content and eliciting top notch performances from her two leads; but on occasions unnecessarily overcrowds the stage with props, extras and distractions, such as a slightly delayed live video feed and a cluttered stage. But despite these minor quibbles, the script, drama, performance and tension of the piece grip the attention and holds it with ease.
Frost/Nixon provides a fascinating insight into a historic television event, one which does not require any pre-existing knowledge of the events leading up to Nixon’s resignation and one which proves to be a well-timed revival in light of the current political climate in the United States. The political goings-on of the former president take a back seat to the power struggle being played out in front of the cameras, and the play is better for it, primarily distilling the story down to the interchange between the two protagonists and small hubs of support each receives off camera.
Frost/Nixon is at the Crucible Theatre until 17th March. Visit Sheffield Theatres’ website for tickets and details.