Stranger than fiction: Kompromat at the Vault Festival, Wed 23 to Sun 27 January

Kompromat is the hard hitting play at the Vault Festival inspired by the still-unsolved 2010 murder of GCHQ agent Gareth Williams, whose body was found in a sports bag. Dave Cross spoke to actor Guy Warren-Thomas about this fascinating story.

Hi Guy, in basic terms what is Kompromat?

Kompromat is the story of two young men, instantly attracted to each other, whose life choices lead to very dark circumstances culminating in a very grim ending. It begs the question of how much we are truly in charge or our own destinies, also how much can lust overrule good sense.

Can you tell us about your character? 

I play ‘Tom’, (loosely based on Gareth Williams) a genius with numbers, who has lived a somewhat clandestine life – certainly in terms of his personal relationships – while working in Cheltenham for GCHQ. Let’s just say he spent the whole of his 20s living almost closeted in a Gloucestershire village, so when he moves to the alluring lights of the big smoke at 31, things certainly step up a gear.

How close is the play to what we know of the actual case? 

It’s inspired by real events, yes, but my character is I think very different to what little we know of Gareth Williams. As for the 24 hours that lead to his death, which is what the play explores, the writer David Thame has drawn a wonderful character in Zac, played by brilliant Max Rinehart. Zac is dangerous attractive and alluring – too much to resist for a seemingly sheltered country boy. David’s gay honey trap set-up is a plausible theory.

The case has never been solved and recently we’ve had the Salisbury poisonings – does the play link these events?

It certainly mentions the poisonings at one moment. If anything it highlights that whoever might have organised this particular killing wanted to make a statement – going unnoticed could hardly have been part of the plan.

Does working on a dramatic piece based on real and recent events bring its own set of requirements? 

As an actor I think you need to be loyal to the character that’s on the page in front of you. I also think it requires, from the whole creative team (and I include the actors in that), an awareness of sensitivity and respect towards whatever those real life events may be. Peter Darney, our fantastic director, is at the helm and thankfully is wonderfully sensitive about this aspect of the work.

Kompromat at the Vault Festival at the Vaults, Leake Street, SE1. Tickets via

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