Magic Number Six documents the friendship between actor Patrick McGoohan and TV producer Lew Grade throughout the making of TV series The Prisoner. Grade puts up with McGoohan’s diva tendencies and demands for further funding, although it is unclear why he does so. McGoohan is adamant about producing only six episodes, requests an absurd amount of money, sneakily directs the show himself and produces its theme tune. While audiences aware of and interested in the backstory may well appreciate this, it is debatable that the show stands alone as a piece in itself.
The acting was on the whole competent and amicable. However, the show unfortunately developed an unnecessarily slow and lethargic tone, the actors dragging out and flattening many of their lines. This prevented many of the jokes from fully finding their way, something which could have been avoided by sharpening reactions and honing specific moments.
There was also a bit of a problem with characterisation. It was unclear whether McGoohan was being presented as a spoilt, egocentric actor or as a maverick artist with maverick ways. This was partly due to Rob Leeson’s lack of conviction. Colin Woods also didn’t seem to fully embody Lew Grade, although his performance was amusing enough. Mrs Cartwright, the secretary who enters at regular intervals to serve food, seemed a somewhat irrelevant character, although she was consistently comical throughout. Her flirty fixation on McGoohan and irritation with her boss, Grade, won many laughs.
The script itself was often funny and riddled with references to be appreciated by audience members of that generation. However, there were words wasted which didn’t strictly need to be there, including plenty of irrelevant, loose conversations about Roger Moore, the Beatles, food, Mrs Cartwright that went nowhere and neither added nor detracted to the play’s central premise. It was also difficult to pinpoint what the central premise was other than McGoohan making more demands and Grade relenting - until he stops relenting. However, with a little editing and slicker direction, this production could really blossom.