Single Spies

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich


> Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

Divided loyalties, different characters varied perspectives make Single Spies a most intriguing evening's entertainment. Split minds, often side-splitting humour, sometimes hair-splitting distinctions add to a study in parallels that never quite meet as two of the most talked about Cambridge spies are seen from a vantage point long after their treachery.

To make comparisons all the more striking, the role of Burgess in one of Alan Bennett's short dramatisations and that of Blunt in the other are both played by a single actor. The accomplished Noel Jones carries off the two plots with aplomb. He masters the long, and to be honest, pretty wordy scripts and finds just the manner and the action to show differences while pointing up similarities. First he conveys the despair of the drink-sodden exile in Russia. Then he shows the more assured attitudes of the London professor of art history who all but manages to keep the investigating wolf from the door.

Zanna Foley-Davies has the style of the distinguished touring actress who overcomes her doubts to befriend Burgess. Matthew Pinkerton is a persuasive Inspector Chubb. Gradually he surrenders to the fascination of deciphering pictures when he ought to be looking for evidence of quite another sort.

Director Jude Wyatt has a difficult task. Depths are shown in the minds of the personalities involved in their dilemmas. But the dimness of the sets creates a rather depressing effect, and the stage often seemed crowded, with some awkward entrances. The celebrated, if lengthy Buckingham Palace scene is handled neatly, with Bex Walton ruling the roost with regal composure.

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Would the text profit from pruning? It probably would. Those the dialogue is undeniably brilliant, moments come when action seems to slow down too much just for the sake of more jokes. The little episode about pyjamas for instance is, hardly worth waiting for.

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