Thursday, 14 April 2016

Single Spies

Friday evening saw me back at Bath Theatre Royal again, this time to see 'Single Spies' . It is some time since I booked the tickets, so I had forgotten, until I arrived at the theatre and bought a programme, that this is not a single play, but 2 one act plays (by Alan Bennett) both dealing with members of the Cambridge Spy Ring.

The first of the two plays, 'An Englishman Abroad' is set in Moscow in 1958, the Englishman in question being  Guy Burgess, who disappeared with fellow Soviet spy Donald MacLean in 1951, resurfacing in Moscow.

The play is based on real events, and is told from the points of view of Burgess himself, and of Coral Browne, an Australia born actress who met Burgess while visiting Moscow as part of a cultural exchange in 1958.

Burgess (Nicholas Farrell) comes across as a rather pathetic figure; yearning for gossip about London, frustrated at being constantly associated with his fellow spy, MacLean - a picture of lonely exile. Browne (Belinda Lang) is very detached, happy to assist Burgess in his desire to replace his Savile Row suit, and unimpressed by his politics, sacrifice or betrayal.

The second play is 'A Question of Attribution' which features David Robb (Downton Abbey's Dr Clarkson) as Sir Anthony Blunt, Art Historian, Keeper of the Queen's Pictures, and the Fourth Man in the Cambridge Spy Ring. Robb is excellent in the role, and Belinda Lang appeared again as the Queen (I think rather more successfully than her earlier role) as the play mingles art history and comment with Blunt investigating the history of a Caravaggio whilst parrying attempts to investigate his past associations. (Blunt was granted immunity from prosecution for his espionage in return for providing information)

The play is, in parts, extremely funny, and there cast is excellent.

A fun night out.

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