Cell Mates by Simon Gray, Hampstead Theatre, 9 December 2017

There were warning signs that this production of this play might provoke thoughts of walking out part-way through and even take me and Janie to the very edge of reason…

…I had simply forgotten about them and/or ignored them.

We didn’t book the original production of the play, Cell Mates, but we read all about it when Stephen Fry walked out on the production after just a few days and disappeared – the controversy about that is well documented on the Wikipedia entry for the play – here.

Further, two of the lead performers for this production, Geoffrey Streatfeild and Cara Horgan, were in The Pains Of Youth – Ogblogged here – which Janie and I hated and from which we walked at half time.

But these reflections are terribly unfair on those fine actors, whose performances were the saving grace of this production of Cell Mates. Our problem with Cell Mates, I think, is mostly the play itself.

The story of George Blake and Sean Bourke is very interesting. I can see why Simon Gray sought to dramatise it. Yet sometimes great stories do not make great drama; or perhaps this story would have needed more dramatic licence to bring the story to dramatic life. Blake’s passion for Marxism and the Soviet Union, to the exclusion of his human relationships, is a fascinating idea but made for dreary drama to our eyes.

To us, this play was a waste of excellent talent; all of the cast are fine performers and played their parts well. Edward Hall is a director we greatly admire. We considered walking at half time, but stuck it out on the strength of the performances.

Anyway, here is the Hampstead Theatre resource on the play/production. 

Here is Ed Hall talking about the production:

Here is the trailer:

Here is a search term that will take you to reviews and stuff – the critics seem to be seeing a bit more in the play/production than we did…but only a bit.

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