Who Is No. 1?

Who Is No.1? was a question that occupied television watching audiences from the late 1960’s and, nearly 60 years later, The Prisoner series is a cult classic with people still obsessing over the question. This is the telling of how that show was created, from first ideas to the really bonkers ending and the fallout afterwards; told through the driven, perfectionist control freak lead in the whole series: Patrick McGoohan, played with stoic conviction by Murray Simon.

A fascinating joy to watch, funny, eccentric and thought provoking

There are an array of fascinating facts presented throughout the story in the play, from the tons of research the writers Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon have done in reading dozens of published and unpublished books and writings, and these facts are presented in an interesting way: such as the reason McGoohan gave for giving up playing John Drake in Danger Man and for turning down James Bond was because being a Roman Catholic, he was reluctant to kiss his love interests. Lew Grade, wonderfully played by Ross Gurney-Randall, was beyond supportive of McGoohan, instantly backing the project even though he didn’t understand it, and continued to endorse whatever McGoohan wanted.

McGoohan’s initial conception of the idea was seven episodes, or rather, seven films “to be shown sequentially”, as he balked against the label of series. The initial pitch seemed utterly bonkers: a nameless ex-secret service agent wakes up in a village in no specific location, is given a number not a name, and every time tries to escape but is brought back at the end of each episode by a freaky mysterious robot called Rover. He is number six, the boss is number two, and he continually try to discover who number one is. The original idea was that nobody would ever find out. The reason behind it is an allegory for life: we are restricted and confined in our lives in society and cannot get out. It is almost installation art captured on film. What is curious are the similarities between the series and its creation shown in this play: that the actor is beholden to the producer as number two, who is in turn beholden to an unseen number one; that no matter how free we think we are, we are always restricted by something.

All this could be very dry in other writing minds but Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon have made this laugh out loud hilarious in some places, as well as poignant in others. The piece has great pace, each scene flows into the next and the set becomes wherever they are. The old telephones and lime green 60’s chairs were a lovely touch, and there is so much gorgeous detail in every aspect of this production, from the way Murray (as McGoohan) clunked down a small bag with hidden bottles of booze he was taking on a plane journey, to his switching of accents between the Irish American off screen to the BBC English in the show.

This is a unique idea and a fantastic piece. It’s an interesting, entertaining and funny production, with only four actors on top form. Robert Cohen and Brian Mitchell play many other parts in the show and Murray Simon shines as the single minded McGoohan whose energy holds the whole piece and drives everything forward. Ross Gurney-Randall’s superb embodiment of all the different characters he plays perhaps steals it, changing his physicality to play vastly different people with absolute ease and flawless effect; plus his facial expressions are perfectly pitched. This show is a fascinating joy to watch, funny, eccentric and thought provoking.

Visit Show Website

Reviews by Susanne Crosby

The Actors - Theatre

One Way Mirror

★★★
The Rotunda Theatre: Squeak

Natal Attraction

★★★
Ironworks Studios (Studio C)

Great Britons

★★★★
The Rotunda Theatre: Bubble

Coleridge-Taylor of Freetown

★★
The Rotunda Theatre: Bubble

Strange Orbits

★★★
The Lantern @ ACT

Magpie

★★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

1966. Patrick McGoohan, the world's highest-paid actor, having already turned down James Bond, walks out of his hit series Danger Man for a new project that seems to encapsulate all the paranoia, intrigue and psychedelic insanity of the swinging sixties. Backing him is Lew Grade, Britain's leading impresario, head of a legendary entertainment dynasty. Together they make The Prisoner, a cult TV masterpiece - the most written-about TV series of all time. But, through all the tensions, strains, triumphs and controversies, there's one question that remains: "Who is No. 1?" The latest comedy play from the multi-award-winning writing duo Brian Mitchell (co-writer of The Ministry of Biscuits) and Joseph Nixon (co-writer of West-End hit The Shark Is Broken), explores the age-old tensions between artist and patron, prophet and king, telling the truth and pleasing the crowd, and why artists sometimes risk everything for their vision. Performed by a cast of Brighton's finest, including previous festival award-winners Ross Gurney-Randall (Big Daddy Vs. Giant Haystacks, Follow Me) and Robert Cohen (The Trials of Harvey Matusow, High Vis) in a special preview presentation from the Foundry Group, winners of OffWestEnd.com's OffFEST Award for Theatre, Brighton Fringe 2022. Running Time: 90 minutes including 15 min interval

Most Popular See More

The Mousetrap

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Book of Mormon

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Back to the Future - The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets