Pack Of Lies
Paul Johnson | 09 Apr 2012 01:07am
Leap Productions Bromley Guild full length play festival entry for this year is ‘Pack of Lies’ by Hugh Whitmore, a play based on the true events revolving around a Russian spy scandal during the winter of 1960 – 61, the height of the Cold War. When Barbara and Bob Jackson are visited by a stranger purporting to be from MI5 and asking permission to conduct a surveillance operation from their bedroom window, they are sceptical. Having lived in the same suburban Ruislip street for years, they know all the neighbours. When it transpires that the main objects of interest are Peter and Helen Kroger, the Jackson’s desire to do their citizen’s duty comes into sharp conflict with their loyalty to the couple who have been their closest friends for over 5 years. The play got off to a slow start with long pauses and delays bringing in the curtains – causing the actors to have to freeze for a painful amount of time on stage. In addition there were a few prompts which came in quite quickly when perhaps they were not actually needed; however, the device of introducing each scene with a different character’s monologue giving their view of the story so far, worked well, piquing our interest and allowing us to speculate where the story would go next Justina Frampton took centre stage with the role of the ordinary little housewife interested only in her family and home, whose life is turned upside down when her house is taken over by British agents spying on the spies. Whilst Tracey Daigle, the bubbly, outgoing Helen Kroger, performed with warmth and energy. Jez Frampton played Bob as a steady and loving father, confused by the changes going on around him. I disagreed with the adjudicator’s comments that he would have expected Bob to be more tactile – his slightly clumsy attempt to comfort his wife seemed absolutely appropriate for the period the play was set. Peter Harvey as Peter Kroger, is a slightly mysterious intellectual, overpowered by his bouncy, overbearing wife, who reveals that his route to communism began in the American depression when, surrounded by poverty, he realised that the capitalist system was not working. Daniel Ward-Nixon the suave, yet sinister, civil servant tries to appear casual and undaunted by what is happening, but left us in no doubt as to his real purpose in apprehending the couple he sees as a threat to British security. Vicky Bloyce and Louise Savage gave good support as Thelma and Sally, the young women involved in the surveillance operation, and their conversations with Barbara demonstrated her rising concern about the fact that while her friends were betraying their adopted country, she in her turn was betraying them.
Marc Cook-West’s set paid close attention to 1960s period details, showing us the Jackson’s world both through the set and the costumes. The invisible walls meant we could see the living room, hall and kitchen and Hilary MacKirdy’s excellent set dressing paid meticulous attention to detail, even down to the flying ducks, although I am not sure about the kettle that seemed to switch itself off! Barbara’s slightly dowdy outfits and carefully controlled hair contrasted well with the stylish outfits and casual hairstyle worn by Helen, while the succession of pullovers and cardigans sported by Barbara’s husband Bob was spot on. Peter and Helen’s Canadian accents were not particularly convincing, however, the Jacksons’ speech clearly reproduced the stilted interchanges which passed for conversation amongst British couples of the time. The Jacksons’ teenage daughter Julie (Jemma Jordan) is a willing accomplice with Helen bringing some fresh air into her parents’ lives. The relationship between these two was sensitively played and Julie’s outburst at the end when she realised the truth about the Krogers’ activities was both shocking and moving. She was not the wild teenager of today but appeared generally to be a thoughtful, kind child, despite the slightly uppity response to her parents and the boyfriend with the motorbike! Director Joy Jordan attempted to keep the tension high and make this play more like a thriller than a true story, but as an audience we are left pondering the question: “What would I have done?” Given the choice between betraying close friends or betraying one’s country, which would you choose, and did this family have any option in the matter anyway? Whitemore’s play is beautifully constructed, and gives a revealing insight into life at that time, it does, however, leave you wondering what might be happening under our very noses in the house across the street.
- : admin
- : 29/03/2012