BWW Review: PACK OF LIES, Menier Chocolate Factory
Hugh Whitemore's slow-burning dramedy Pack of Lies is based on the real life events that surrounded a family living in Ruislip who discover that their best friends and neighbours may not be who they think they are.
The play first hit the London stage in the 1980s with Judi Dench and her husband Michael Williams as Barbara and Bob Jackson. Now, their daughter Finty Williams is performing in the same role that saw her mother win an Olivier Award.
Set in the 1960s, the play focuses on the suburban Jackson family - Barbara (Williams), Bob (Chris Larkin) and daughter Julie (Macy Nyman), who live on the outskirts of London. A normal, if slightly dull, family, they find their lives are turned upside down when MI5 agent Stewart (Jasper Britton) informs them that a man they're interested in has been seen in the area. He asks that the Jacksons allow the Government to use their house as a lookout for a few days in case the man returns.
It soon becomes clear however that there's more to the story and Stewart eventually reveals that their Canadian neighbours, the Krogers (Tracy-Ann Oberman and Alasdair Harvey), are under investigation as part of a Soviet spy ring. With the Government taking over their house, and torn between remaining loyal to her friends and aiding the Government in their arrest, mousy housewife Barbara crumples in on herself as the stress takes its toll on her.
Whitemore's lengthy monologues can seem tiresome at times, particularly in the first act. But director Hannah Chissick sets a fast pace in the second act, with revelations emerging about Helen and Peter's mysterious visitors and the Government continually extending their time inside the Jackson house.
The production has an outstanding cast. Williams portrays Barbara as a demure and shy woman who is torn apart by the revelation that her best friend has betrayed them. Larkin also offers a sterling performance as the quiet and loving husband, while Tracey-Ann Oberman shines in every scene she's in as the kind but boisterous neighbour.
Paul Farnsworth's meticulous 1960s set perfectly captures the Jackson family's classic Britishness - milk is poured into a tiny china jug, flowery lampshades with fringes are dotted around the living room, and doilies are placed on the arms of the chair and sofas.
There's no doubt that Pack of Lies is a dated play, but Chissick's production is funny and has a whole lot of heart.
Pack of Lies at Menier Chocolate Factory until 17 November
Photo Credit: Nobby Clark