Quiz – Norwich Theatre Royal
Everyone must remember Coughing Gate when in 2001, Major Charles Ingram was accused of cheating as he won one million pounds on the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? It was one of the biggest game shows and one of the biggest cheating scandals!
This play is a dramatization of events, based on the evidence given however, there is a twist: us, the audience gets to decide!
It starts in a court room where the premise of the case is explained, we get to vote on whether we think Diana and Charles Ingram are guilty of coughing their way through the answers to win. We were all given an keypad to take to our seats and used this to cast our vote – this audience voted 87% Guilty and 13% Not Guilty.
The first half of the show is the case for the Prosecution. The format smoothly flips from a piece in court to the flashback of the real life events being played out by the characters and works a treat as it explores how everything gets linked together and we as an audience are given the evidence and some history behind it.
Fascinating details are provided: how the quiz show’s format started as an idea and how it developed, how Chris Tarrant was persuaded to be the presenter, a little about Major Ingram and his military life and family life, specifically his wife Diana and her brother Adrian Pollock. There were so many details of the story which were intriguing. It was discovered there was a ‘syndicate’, a group of quizzers who worked together to get into the studio audience.
Initially the producers thought their contestant selection criteria was random and fool proof, but after Adrian Pollock appeared in the audience for the fourth time, maybe something was going on. It transpired that Adrian had even build a ‘Fastest Finger First’ machine to practice on so he would get into the hot seat – which he did. His recorded speeds were the fastest ever for the show. Others in the syndicate got to hear of the machine, including Tecwen Whittock.
Delightful specifics were shared, such as it was the second ever contestant on the show that nailed its popularity as it showed the perfect level of emotion, drama and entertainment. From the next day all the foreign networks wanted the rights and in the end it was produced in over 140 countries.
Then the links became stronger: Adrian Pollock got in the hot seat and won £32k then his sister Diane Ingram got in the hot seat and also won £32k and then her husband Major Charles Ingram got into the hot seat! And what happened next is a part of history.
At the interval, everyone is discussing their thoughts on the case – there really was a great atmosphere in the theatre.
The second part of the show is the case for the Defence. Now this side of the story is even more interesting. Diana has always been a quizzer and spends time going to quizzes, learning facts, revising, practicing, was even writing a book on how to get onto the show, and was coaching Charles constantly to give him the best chance of success. The case for the Defence delves more into the Ingram’s lives but also questions certain evidence from the Prosecution such as the missing five original audio files of the studio audience of that show, ie the coughing files. Instead a version of the files edited together was used.
After all the evidence played out we get to vote again – this time the audience voted 49% Guilty and 51% Non-Guilty! This provided a huge exclaim from the audience.
The show then drops a bombshell and gives us another possible theory of what happened – no spoiler here – and well, that could have been possible.
In real life the jury found the three defendants guilty, and were charged with suspended sentences. I guess we will never know the real truth of whether they cheated or not but the theories and conspiracies are an interesting discussion.
The show was completely fun all the way through. Catch phrases were used, re-enacting of parts of the show were excellent and we really were an ‘ask the audience’ life line.
This is a compelling, witty, entertaining, engaging, interactive, brilliant show. Made more fun with the fabulous cast including Rory Bremner, Charley Webb, Lewis Reeves and the wonderful Mark Benton.