Stage Review of SINGLE SPIES

Single Spies is a double bill portraying soviet spies, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt. The two were members of ‘the Cambridge Five’ a spy ring recruited at Cambridge University in the 1930s.

An Englishman Abroad (Act I): chronicles a meeting between Guy Burgess and stage actress Coral Browne. Browne worked primarily in Britain and specialized in ‘superior, upper-crust sorts’. The story is told in Browne’s first person account of a fleeting friendship with Burgess.

David Robb and Nicholas Farrell in Single Spies Photography: Alastair Muir
David Robb and Nicholas Farrell in Single Spies
Photography: Alastair Muir

A Question of Attribution (Act II): is a glimpse into Anthony Blunt’s life of espionage within the very walls of Buckingham Palace.

THE HUMOUR is very much geared for the British audience, and within that, a very narrow demographic. The laughter sounds I heard from the audience were not in any way emphatic.

THE IRONY attached to the hindsight advantage of when the play was written I totally get, but as with the History Boy’s play, Bennett tells us, and then he tells us more, he is lecturing almost through the dialogue use and the one liners, but when the sting arrives he denies us, he waters down the hindsight message in lines which understate on purpose. A cluster of lines that he casually throws in but what he has been working all along to arrive at, so this provokes from the audience nothing more than a knowing nod, perhaps a small chuckle, and a ‘boy isn’t Bennett clever, see what he did there?’  That is just how Bennett perceived the response to be, frankly though, it’s a bit boring.
THE SCRIPT this is about real people and real events so there are elements of the script that gets in your head. A nice little lesson in history, but, in my view, is not among the cream of the Bennett crop as things stand today. The script once again is detrimental to all the other creative areas attached to it. It was an award winning play shortly after it premiered, so perhaps I’m in the minority but I just found the whole thing very plain.

Review by theatre critic, Debra Hall who attended press night of Single Spies at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 18 February 2016. A repeat online publication of this review appears at Remotegoat



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