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Sunday, 17 October 2021

REVIEW: A Splinter of Ice at the Jermyn Street Theatre

Growing up in the 1970s offers a smorgasbord of memories; tank tops, glam-rock and the three day week all jostle for attention. But the Cold War always loomed large, with the US and Soviet Union flexing their muscles as Britain’s global influence shrunk by the very day. Grim tales of red buttons and nuclear fallout shelters fed the paranoia. Happily the 1980s brought glasnost and perestroika; Michail Gorbachev and a birthmark that looked like the hammer and sickle. Spitting Image would have its wicked way but things were getting better. This engrossing play by Ben Brown picks up in Moscow and imagines a meeting between Graham Greene and Kim Philby. The former, a legendary novelist and latter an MI6 man who turned Soviet spy.

The Jermyn Street Theatre has a great sense of spatial awareness and makes the most of a compact performance area. The set is stocked with symbols and mementoes of a Cold War existence. A chess set with a game in progress, framed medals and a mural depicting the Moscow skyline. It's a brilliantly simple method of setting the mood and atmosphere. Graham Greene (Oliver Ford Davies) saunters onto set much like one of his greatest creations Harry Lime. He is in Moscow ostensibly to attend a peace conference. But business and pleasure soon become intertwined as he calls on former colleague Kim Philby (Stephen Boxer).

Saturday, 17 April 2021

REVIEW: A Splinter of Ice by Original Theatre at the Cheltenham Everyman Theatre (Online)

Original Theatre online has produced some very interesting, good quality streamed shows over the last year including the pertinent and touching Good Grief and the intriguing monologues of Barnes People. The latest full-length play is Ben Brown’s new political drama, A Splinter Of Ice which is a fascinating exploration of friendship and isolation of spies and spy literature. Captured by Tristan Shepherd with three cameras on the stage of the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham, it justifies the relatively high streamed price and is available until 31st July.

The play focuses on the last meeting of the author and former MI6 agent Graham Greene with one of the notorious Russian spies, Kim Philby in his rather poorly furnished flat in Moscow in February 1987 and is based on true events and relationships. Their conversation reviews their past time together and the motivations for their actions and the way they have been portrayed in novels and the media since. It is wordy with lots of necessary exposition, but the writing engages us both in understanding a most significant episode in the cold war and the understanding and friendship between these two famous people.
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