Friday 30 May 2008

Single Spies

Alan Bennett's Olivier-award winning plays Single Spies have been at the Theatre Royal Bath this week in the theatre's own production of the 1988 hit. Diana Quick is superb as the actress Coral Browne in An Englishman Abroad and as the Queen in A Question of Attribution. Nigel Havers convinces more - despite his height - as Anthony Blunt in the latter than as Guy Burgess in the former, though the production's clever sets - completely changed in the interval - manage to convey the atmospherics of both settings well. The dingy Moscow flat of the exiled spy, where tomatoes have become a luxury, is offset by Burgess's pining for Savile Row suits; the doubts over the origins of a piece of work attributed to Titian, and the uncovering of its hidden secrets, offer an obvious if effective contrast with the treachery of Blunt. But in a post-Soviet age, both pieces have an even greater sense of historical curiosity than they may have evoked as the Gorbachev-led thaw was setting in during the late eighties. Nevertheless, it is a good production, and one worthy of revival.

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