A new production of Alan Bennett’s Olivier Award-winning Best Comedy, Single Spies, starring Nicholas Farrell (The Iron Lady, Legend, Chariots of Fire), Belinda Lang (2 Point 4 Children, Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, Oklahoma!) and David Robb (Downton Abbey, Wolf Hall, The Audience), tours to the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 4th to Saturday 9th April.
This hit double-bill, featuring An Englishman Abroad and A Question of Attribution, sparkles with Alan Bennett’s trademark wit and continues to delight audiences with its intriguing revelations about espionage and forgery. Directed by Olivier Award-nominated Rachel Kavanaugh, this compelling satirical drama spans the globe from Moscow to London in two one-act plays, and reveals lives lived under cover of fraud and exile.
Exploring the public’s fascination with Russian spies and royalty, Single Spies chronicles the exploits of two members of the notorious ‘Cambridge Five’ spy ring, recruited by the Soviet Union during World War II.
In 1950s Moscow, actress Coral Browne receives an invitation to lunch with shunned Soviet spy, Guy Burgess, with the sole instruction to ‘bring a tape measure’. An Englishman Abroad is a wry and touching play which chronicles the pair’s fleeting friendship and Burgess’ attempts to cling to his way of life as a Soviet citizen.
A Question of Attribution gives us a glimpse into Anthony Blunt’s life of espionage within the very walls of Buckingham Palace. Following his double-life as an art historian to royalty and a Soviet spy, this witty tale of forgery and deceit culminates in a sharp and candid interrogation from Her Majesty The Queen herself.
Nicholas Farrell, who plays Guy Burgess, starred as Alan Bennett on stage in the West End premiere of The Lady in the Van alongside Maggie Smith in 1999. His extensive film credits include Chariots of Fire, The Iron Lady, Legend, Bloody Sunday and Pearl Harbor. His many stage roles include Horatio in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet for the RSC, alongside Branagh in the title role. He last performed at the Theatre Royal Bath in Kean in 1990. His many television credits include Death in Paradise, Call the Midwife, New Tricks, Secret State, Torchwood, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Jury, Persuasion, The Jewel in the Crown and Mansfield Park.
Belinda Lang, who appears as both Coral Browne and Her Majesty The Queen, is best known on television for playing Bill Porter in hit BBC series 2 Point 4 Children. A favourite with Bath audiences, Belinda has performed in twelve productions at the Theatre Royal since 1984; most recently in Oklahoma! in 2015, also directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, Ladies in Lavender in 2012, and Present Laughter, which she starred in and directed in 2010. She played opposite Judi Dench in Hay Fever and starred in The Killing of Sister George in the West End. Her many screen credits also include Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, To Serve Them All My Days, Second Thoughts, Doctors, Dear John and The Bretts.
David Robb, who plays Anthony Blunt, has been recently seen on our television screens as Dr. Clarkson in the hugely popular drama, Downton Abbey, and as Sir Thomas Boleyn in Wolf Hall. His numerous television credits also include Garrow’s Law, Rebus, Taggart, Casualty and Highlander. Most recently on stage, he has performed in the West End in The Audience and Hamlet.
The cast is completed by Giles Coram, Paul Grunert, Pamela Hardman, Simon Hepworth, Joseph Prowen and David Young.
Single Spies was first staged at the National Theatre in 1988, receiving ecstatic reviews. It went on to become a huge West End hit and won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy in 1990. This new production of Bennett’s comedy classic is staged by Chichester Festival Theatre and Birmingham Repertory Theatre, who recently enjoyed success with their co-production of The King’s Speech.
Rachel Kavanaugh was Artistic Director of Birmingham Repertory Theatre and has directed multiple celebrated productions at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre including The Sound of Music, which was Olivier Award nominated, and won Best Musical Revival at the WhatsOnStage Awards. Her many credits also include The Merry Wives of Windsor for the RSC; An Ideal Husband starring Edward Fox and Patricia Routledge; and Love Story, which was Olivier Award-nominated for Best New Musical and transferred to the West End.
Alan Bennett has been a household name for more than forty years. His reputation as the master of observation and brilliant comic phrasing was sealed with his series of ground-breaking Talking Heads, originally filmed for television. One of the most distinctive voices in British theatre, his plays include Single Spies, Enjoy, Forty Years On, Habeas Corpus and The Lady in the Van, recently made into a film starring Maggie Smith. His hit play The Madness of George III was made into a double BAFTA Award-winning and Oscar-nominated film, The Madness of King George. The stage play was successfully revived in Bath in 2011 and transferred to the West End. His drama The History Boys won no less than 30 major awards and was made into a film in 2005. His most recent successes at the National Theatre include The Habit of Art and People.
Single Spies appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 4th to Saturday 9th April. Tickets are on sale at the Box Office on 01225 448844 or via www.theatreroyal.org.uk
Photography by Hugo Glendinning & Alastair Muir