Spy Plays – London/Budapest and Kompromat – at Above The Stag: Press night review by Stephen Vowles

I love a ‘so you can hear a pin drop moment’ at the theatre and with David Thame’s sensational double bill London/Budapest and Kompromat that happens – and then some. Via astute direction by Peter Darney and Julie Addy, the level of intrigue oozes out from the footlights making this one of the most riveting and absorbing nights of theatre in recent months. 

The plays are both fictional but inspired by real life mysteries, the death in 2010 of MI5 agent Gareth Williams whose body was found locked in a sports bag in his Pimlico flat and the supposed suicide in the 1950s of Adam de Hegedus better known as Rodney Garland, the pen name under which he wrote the overtly gay bestseller The Heart in Exile. 

Thame is a glorious storyteller intimating that fiction can easily become fact with a focus on the need for manipulation and sexual gratification that makes for edge of the seat stuff.

This is ingenious and momentous fluid theatre where the power of the script is also intensified by Jack Wills’ incredible lighting that adds an elegance to the atmosphere; a frisson that is both spellbinding and stupendous.

The cast of Guy Warren-Thomas, Max Rinehart and Sean Browne all perform with an ardent passion for their roles; a true triumph especially Rinehart whose control of the use of an extended monologue, a direct address to the audience in Kompromat, is delivered with such a swagger he really comes into his own. 

This is a delicious theatrical treat, erotic, serious, tidy and clever and sophisticated making the point that the master becomes the pupil and then the pupil becomes the master in a double bill that was a pure pleasure to watch. Abundant entertainment.

Photos by PBG Studios


Spy Plays runs to Sunday 29 March at the Above the Stag, 72 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall, London SE1 7TP. Box office:

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