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BWW Reviews: A MORNING WITH GUY BURGESS, The Courtyard Theatre, January 13 2011

2011 marks the centenary of the birth of Guy Burgess of "Burgess, Philby and Maclean" fame - for fame it still is, despite the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Russia being better known these days for leggy tennis players and yacht-going oligarchs. The spies fame resonates beyond the narrow confines of a war that wasn't really a war and a dog (the use of atomic weapons) that didn't bark, because of those old favourites of British drama: class; deviance; power; and betrayal. 

On a spare set at The Courtyard Theatre, Burgess's story is told in flashbacks, as he drinks himself to an early grave in grim post-Stalin, pre-Gorbachev Moscow. Teasing the tale out of the old soak is bright-eyed Russian / English, school-teacher / maid for the day, Julia, who has a secret of her own. As Burgess, Gareth Pilkington captures the middle-aged man's world-weariness and his yearning for one last visit to the Old Country, but it's difficult for an actor of 60 years of age to portray the glamour and burning political energy that possessed the twenty-something Burgess, particularly when the other actors are age-appropriate. Philby (Richard Holt), Maclean (Rich Keeble) and Blunt (Jacob Trenerry) are shown circling each other for years, in a world of double lives - Establishment figures, betraying the Establishment; gay men at a time when homosexuality was a crime; middle class professionals dedicated to the struggle of the Working Class.

In the second half, John Morrison wisely avoids the trap of spending much more time going over ground that will be familiar to many in the audience, and focuses his script on the mysterious Julia (winningly played by Margarita Nazarenko) and the reason why she is spending a morning with Guy Burgess. Suddenly the themes explored in the flashbacks are present in the here and now, as the audience realises that the choices between loyalty and betrayal, between people and ideas, between life and death explored in the first half, will be at the heart of the second half too. Julia's story also allows Morrison to tell of how the same Communist Centre that carefully cultivated the Cambridge undergraduates, dealt so savagely with its own citizenry.

With a subject as familiar as the Cambridge spies, there's probably not enough new history to carry a play over two hours long, nor is there enough dramatic tension between Julia and Guy, but by splitting the focuses of the two halves, Morrison's structure supports an evening of fine acting and leaves the audience with much to ponder on the nature of politics at the level of the superpower and the personal.

 

A Morning with Guy Burgess continues at The Courtyard Theatre until 30 January.  



CLASSICAL CRACKERS Announced This Christmas At St Johns Smith Square Photo
St John’s Smith Square are marking the festive season with their 37th annual Christmas Festival. Top talent, from Vox Luminis to The Tallis Scholars, will gather in the heart of Westminster to perform timeless Christmas music. With the iconic hall at St John’s Smith Square decked in Christmas decorations, and mulled wine and mince pies sold in The Footstool Cafe, Christmas at St John’s Smith Square is set to be a cracker. 

Etcetera Theatre to Present MAN OF YOUR DREAMS in December Photo
Man of Your Dreams is coming to Etcetera Theatre 1 - 10 December. George has had a tough week. The job he loves, the job he has dedicated his twenties to, has let him go. Unemployed and listless, he winds up at Hamish's flat, his best and oldest friend.

Extra Dates Added to JaackMaates HAPPY HOUR PODCAST UK Tour Photo
Due to popular demand, the team behind the award-winning, smash hit Spotify podcast JaackMaate's Happy Hour, are adding extra dates to their first live UK tour.

Garth Marenghis TERRORTOME Book Tour Extends Photo
Garth Marenghi, the cult comedy character created by Matthew Holness, announces a 21-date extension across the UK, starting in February 2023, in support of his now Sunday Times Bestselling book 'TerrorTome'.  


From This Author - Gary Naylor

Gary Naylor is chief London reviewer for BroadwayWorld (https://www.broadwayworld.com/author/Gary-Naylor) and feels privileged to... (read more about this author)


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