The protagonist of Matthew Howell and Jack Michael Stacey’s new comedy farce almost says,“The name’s Blonde, Jane Blonde”. Blonde likes her drinks “shaken, stirred and jiggled”, she has dalliances with American spy Randy Lust and she is also… not blonde as ‘The Actress’ (Jo Hartland) playing her has refused to dye her hair.
A chaotic and entertaining farce performed by a group of talented comedic actors
Spy Movie opens with a monologue informing us that ‘The Director’ (Emily Waters) wanted to make a new spy thriller film based on a mostly untrue story, but she and ‘The Producer’ (Theo Toksvig-Stewart) couldn’t get the budget for that so she settled for a small scale play instead. We are then whisked on a high speed chase throughout the world, via inventively staged action set pieces and impressive bouts of wordplay. Jane Blonde is tasked with finding and protecting the author Ian Flemish (Jack Michael Stacey) in order to prevent his new spy book (featuring protagonist Dick Hardwood) from falling into the wrong hands, specifically the evil hands of Mr. Lovely (also Emily Waters) and an organisation know as EVIW (Every Villain In World).
This warped James Bond style chase takes us under the sea and even up into space for a dramatic finale. The minimal set is used excellently for comedic effect. The two red curtains at the centre of the stage are designed to look like an old fashioned cinema and their flexibility aids the performances as the actors fly on and off stage in their many different roles. Cardboard signs are effectively deployed to whisk us to different locations and toys are used to show the methods of transport. The lighting and sound is slick and effective and does much to elevate the set pieces and heighten the comedy. A particular highlight is the opening sequence which mirrors the opening to a Bond film, but instead of slick artwork and a song from one of the biggest pop-stars on the planet there are hands poking out at all angles from the curtains and a actor shouting ‘bang’.
It doesn’t all work though, the conflict between ‘The Producer’ and ‘The Director’ is a little thin and the dodgy sponsorship deal feels a bit played out, but the jokes come so thick and fast that anything that misses is not dwelt on for long.
Spy Movie is playing at The Hope Theatre in Islington not far from The Old Red Lion Theatre where The Play That Goes Wrong started and this production has much of Mischief Theatre’s anarchic, slapstick sensibility (and indeed two of the cast have been in productions of The Play That Goes Wrong). This is a chaotic and entertaining farce performed by a group of talented comedic actors, so grab yourself a “shaken, stirred and jiggled" drink from the bar downstairs and strap in.