Spies – March 2008


By Michael Frayn, adapted by Daniel Jamieson

Directed by Nikki Sved

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Thursday 6th March 2008

This was a gentle romp through the memory banks of one elderly man, as he reviewed his childhood experiences during the war. He and his friend Keith began a game of watching Keith’s mother, under the belief that she was a German spy, and as the information comes in we get to see the reality behind the game.

The narrator, the older Stefan, takes us with him as he, and we, watch the young Stephen go through the wartime experiences he’s recalling. The set was interesting. At first I wasn’t sure that it would help us to relate to the story, as there seemed to be more emphasis on corrugated iron than on the privet hedges which were central to Stefan’s initial memories. However, as the story unfolded, the other locations that were needed were brilliantly brought to life by the constant folding and unfolding of panels and doors. Occasionally some furniture had to be brought on, such as the beds, but this was done pretty smoothly and didn’t hold things up much. This is only the second week of the tour, so I expect things will get even smoother as time goes on.

The performances were all excellent, especially Benjamin Warren as young Stephen, and Jordan Whyte as the spied upon Mrs Hayward. I didn’t hear all of the dialogue, and there was one unfortunate line which was lost when Benjamin Warren needed to cough, and the others seemed to move the dialogue along without getting clear what Stephen was trying to say. However, none of this spoiled it for me. The reflective nature of the story, and the humour and gentleness with which it was told, made for an engaging evening. I especially liked the way the two boys find out that Mrs Hayward has been marking some dates in her diary with a “secret” mark. These dates occur once a month, always around the new moon, and they jump to completely the wrong conclusion. They also mention some other dates which have an exclamation mark, about three of them, and one on the Haywards’ wedding anniversary. Very suspicious! And very funny. Stephen’s discovery of “the value of x” was also good fun.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me