Dumb Show is a three-character play written by Joe Penhall. First published in 2004, this three-character play centers around the story of an out of control former TV comic named Barry.[1]


Dumb Show first premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London on September 4, 2004, where it was directed by Terry Johnson.[2] Dumb Show later made its American debut at the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, California in September of 2005.[3] More recently, Dumb Show was performed at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake in 2011.[4]


Joe Penhall’s darkly comic Dumb Show opens in a luxury hotel suite, where hot-shot private bankers John and Jane are plying television personality Barry with equal parts of outrageous flattery and vintage champagne, both of which he finds irresistible. Under the guise of crafting a provocative after-dinner speech, the pair cajole him into revealing some of the seamier aspects of his personal life. This is more than he bargained for. So what if he’s using them to get what he wants? That doesn’t give them the right to do the same thing to him, does it? But then doesn’t the public have a right to know who the “real” Barry is (not to mention the “real” John and Jane)?

The tension mounts and the stakes keep getting higher as these three masters of manipulation take turns out-witting one another and rewriting reality according to their own power-crazed agendas. At each surprising turn, Dumb Show confronts questions of ethics, exploitation and personal morality in a culture where humiliating celebrities has become a favorite national pastime.


  1. ^ Penhall, Joe (2004). Dumb Show. London: Methuern Drama. ISBN 0 413 77480 5.
  2. ^ "Theatre review: Dumb Show at Royal Court Theatre Downstairs". British Theatre Guide. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  3. ^ "South Coast Repertory Dumb Show Playbill" (PDF). South Coast Repertory. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2014-08-29.
  4. ^ "Topical times at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake". the Guardian. 2011-07-01. Retrieved 2021-01-06.

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