The Communist Threat

A hotel room in Vienna, 1950. A member of the British secret service, Nightingale, sits with a gun, waiting for his superior for whom he has instructions. When he arrives, apparently on holiday, a tense and engaging dialogue starts, about espionage, loyalty and cricket. It’s essentially The Dumb Waiter meets Another Country and, whilst The Communist Threat isn’t the most intellectual piece of theatre, it nevertheless remains a highly enjoyable and watchable spy thriller.

The dialogue is quick, often very funny, and director Jesse Briton succeeds in gradually notching up the tension

The chemistry between the two actors (who also wrote the piece) is wonderful. Kieran O’Rourke is excellent as Nightingale, a working-class Northerner not used to fieldwork, who has been stuck in Vienna for far too long. David Holmes’ Kip is his ideal opposite: a privileged connoisseur of Scotch who revels in explaining to his administrative colleague the precise method for “termination” disguised as suicide. As is typical for a terse spy thriller, not everything is as it seems about either character and they both set about trying to decipher the other before their traitorous target arrives. The dialogue is quick, often very funny, and director Jesse Briton succeeds in gradually notching up the tension. The piece is perfectly balanced: we always remain alert, interested in the next gambit the operatives might take.

Somewhat disappointingly, everything is tied up neatly at the end – there is little of the ambiguity about the motivations and fates of the heroes that you may expect of the genre. Nevertheless, this remains an entertaining experience throughout: a production that knows exactly what it is and what it’s trying to do. Questions are posed about the nature of personal and national loyalty, and the role of friendship in deception. The play doesn’t answer these questions in any great depth but that’s not what the piece is for. We never really feel threatened by the encroaching communist forces but that doesn’t stop this from being a perfectly entertaining hour of twists, fine acting and cricket.

Reviews by Sam Forbes

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Vienna, 1950; two British spies await orders to execute a traitor. Cambridge graduate Kip is a celebrated war hero, keen, privileged and idealistic. He even bought a new suit to commemorate his first mission. Albert, a working class survivor of a POW camp has been doing the government’s dirty work for years. He always wears the same suit, he wouldn't want to get blood stains on a new one. Hiding out in the squalid basement of a luxury hotel they presume the traitor’s arrival to be imminent, but as days turn into nights, nerves begin to fray…