It has been a while since I last wrote on the subject of theatre and the reason is simple - most theatrical product these days gives every appearance of being total crap or, even worse, politically correct total crap! For example, at the moment there is a production of the greatest play ever written, King Lear, which was carefully and deliberately set by Shakespeare in a pre-Christian era but in this production his beloved daughter, Cordelia, is played by a black actress! Need I say more?
Even so, I regularly skim the 'arty-farty' pages of the newspapers to see if there is anything worth flogging up to London to see but there is nothing - until today! This morning, I received an e-mail from one of the most delightful theatres in London - The Menier Chocolate Factory. As the name implies, this is a somewhat eccentric theatrical space set in what used to be a chocolate factory. The excellent good news they sent me was that they are staging a revival of a little diamond of a play called Pack of Lies written by Hugh Whitemore who, alas, I now learn died just last month at the age of 82. It is a great loss to theatre and films because although he was not, so to speak, one of 'the greats', he was a master craftsman of the first order.
Many of his scripts were based on real life events and Pack of Lies is a perfect example. The central characters are Bob and Barbara Jackson who are, in effect, 'Mr and Mrs Average Suburban Londoners' who live in a quiet residential street in the Ruislip area. Barbara, is portrayed as a very private, somewhat shy, woman but we discover that she has been teased out of her introverted existence by a rather (to her) exotic 'Canadian' lady who lives opposite, called Helen, wife of Peter Kroger. Gradually Barbara builds up an abiding friendship which is rudely interrupted when a gentleman from MI5 calls on them and asks permission to use their house secretly as an observation point to watch the Krogers who are suspected of espionage. The emotional centre of the play is Barbara's struggle between her loyalty to her country and her loyalty to her friend.
In essence, this play was true to events because in 1961 the real-life Krogers, who were actually Americans, were arrested, charged with espionage and served eight years before being exchanged for British agents being held by the Russians. The play is a little gem and, as some of you may recall, I once had the pleasure of playing the role of Mr. Stewart.
Here I am smoothing away the worries of the Jacksons. If you are not sleeping well, I wrote an earlier post on this subject back in 2015 under the heading of:
Anyway, at last I have something theatrical to look forward to!