David Frost rocketed into the national conscience in the early Sixties, and lit up television with vigour – but little talent. Celebrity is a ravenous beast, it feeds on itself, and – despite doing a handful of good interviews, his career went on a slide. Until he signed up the disgraced former President Richard Nixon for a face to face encounter.
It was to become his most famous meeting of all. Frost may have being the ultimate in fawning intimacy with some of his subjects but he knew that, to put down a marker for posterity, he had to skewer Nixon with his own complex brand of compelling charisma, and a forensic detail that would wrong-foot the politician from the very start.
He was meticulous in hiring great researchers and, despite himself, and a wobbly start, he finally got his finger on Nixon’s pulse – here was a man putting himself over as a benevolent hero, rejected by the warped ingratitude of the electorate.
A scoutmaster betrayed by his troop. Best of all, however, was that there were two monstrous egos in the same room, with the camera running. It was a supreme case of hubris meeting hubris head-on. Two legends in their own lunchtime, believing that they were implacably right.
Kate Hewitt directs Daniel Rigby and Jonathan Hyde as the eponymous TV star and the President in the dock in a profoundly engaging (and almost jaw-dropping) evening of theatre that is a model of restraint, disciplined naturalism and integrity.
They, and the rest of the cast inhale Peter Morgan’s script as if it was nourishing them, and the action is so very relevant to today.