A Splinter Of Ice (originaltheatreonline. com; and touring)
Verdict: Well worth a sneaky peek
Julius Caesar (Bridge Theatre; ntathome.com)
Cold War British spy and Russian double agent Kim Philby was a great lover of cricket. On a visit to him in 1987, shortly before his death in Moscow (reimagined in this fascinating new play by Ben Brown), Graham Greene asks what position he favoured when fielding. ‘Third man?’ the novelist and screenwriter asks. ‘No,’ Philby replies coolly. ‘Deep extra cover.’
The two men are at first amusingly wary of each other. Greene (Oliver Ford Davies) famously wrote the script for Carol Reed’s 1949 spy thriller The Third Man. And Philby (Stephen Boxer) supposes the movie’s villain Harry Lime, played by Orson Welles, was based on him. After all, Philby’s first name was Harry, and Kim was a nickname given by his father while growing up in India.
But Greene, who worked under Philby during World War II, points out that his own first name was Harry. And limes are, of course, green. Such historical recreations can sometimes be as dry as the dust on the national archives. But A Splinter Of Ice is a triumph of fascinatingly deployed stories within stories.
Meeting of minds: Oliver Ford Davies and Stephen Boxer as Graham Greene and Kim Philby
We learn that Philby was radicalised at Cambridge in the 1930s; and introduced to Russian spooks by his communist first wife in Vienna. He got into MI6 with a nod from his colonialist father; and eventually became head of Russian counter- intelligence — ‘in charge of catching myself’.
Of the so-called Cambridge Five spy ring — which also included Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross — Philby was the biggest fish. It was he who tipped off Burgess and Maclean when their cover was blown in 1951, before defecting to Moscow in 1963; having first passed on many state secrets.
Brown is the author of the Churchill play Three Days In May, which became the film Darkest Hour. But here he has Philby playing a crafty innings against the swing bowling of Greene’s questions. And although the two men had been friends 35 years previously, Greene comes not just for old time’s sake, but to make Philby an offer.
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Boxer’s Philby is an exquisite enigma: a charmer with an impressive capacity for vodka, wine and whisky; the affable veneer disguising a man John le Carré described as ‘spiteful, vain and murderous’. Ford Davies’s Greene is more stately in Savile Row pinstripes, his affection soliciting Philby’s candour.
There’s a nice cameo from Sara Crowe as Philby’s Russian wife, a writer with whom he honeymooned in Siberia. And she, too, seems to have something to hide.
Filmed at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre, perhaps the most exciting thing about Alan Strachan and Alastair Whatley’s production is that, while available to stream now, it will be live on tour from June 8. I’d gladly see it again (if only to hear the Third Man theme tune played on a zither).
By contrast, Sir Nicholas Hytner’s production of Shakespeare’s prototype conspiracy drama Julius Caesar, is a bit of a culture shock. Pictured: David Morrissey as Mark Antony
By contrast, Sir Nicholas Hytner’s production of Shakespeare’s prototype conspiracy drama Julius Caesar, is a bit of a culture shock.
Now available to rent on NT at Home, the 2018 production at the Bridge Theatre cast aside traditional togas and sandals, blasting us with militant Roman punks chanting: ‘We ain’t gonna take it!’
The sight of an audience mobilised as a crowd, pressing the flesh with David Calder’s Caesar at a political rally, is intoxicating, given today’s social distancing.
Ben Whishaw is restrained as a bookish, bespectacled Brutus, chief conspirator against Caesar. It takes Michelle Fairley’s hawkish Cassius to stir him from his intellectual torpor and persuade him to lead a coup d’etat. But the beating heart of the production is David Morrissey as the gruff Mark Antony, who whips the crowd in the forum into a populist frenzy, to blow Brutus away.
It’s a bloody, bold and resolute take on the play; but on screen it lacks intrigue and feels mob-handed. I suspect you had to be there, to feed on its energy.
PREVIEW: The Lorax
It’s the third outing for Max Webster’s staging of David Greig’s 2015 children’s show, featuring Rob Howell’s primary coloured sets that bring Dr Seuss’s story to glowing life
Dr Seuss’s walrus-tashed Lorax is back to speak for the trees: his beloved (endangered) Truffula trees; but also Rishi Sunak’s magic money tree, which provided the Old Vic with a £3 million grant last October.
It’s the third outing for Max Webster’s staging of David Greig’s 2015 children’s show, featuring Rob Howell’s primary coloured sets that bring Dr Seuss’s story to glowing life.
The parable of the well-meaning Once-ler who gets rich thanks to a craze for useless Thneeds, knitted from Truffula leaves, is still a dotty delight. But on Zoom, in an empty theatre, spectacle yields to invention, with fewer props and characters set in Zoom windows around the main action.
Looking like a stick of sprouting broccoli, Jamael Westman makes a loveable rogue as the rapacious Once-ler. And who could resist the adorable, pot-bellied, spindly-limbed Lorax puppet?
But it’s Greig’s elaboration of Dr Seuss’s rhymes and word-play that drives the show — alongside Charlie Fink’s songs, including a a mock MTV video for the second generation Thneed, like it was some hot new iPhone.
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Bowled over by a tale of secrets and spies: PATRICK MARMION reviews A Splinter Of Ice have 1072 words, post on www.dailymail.co.uk at April 16, 2021. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.