Another Country, which is based loosely on the story of the Cold War spy Guy Burgess, comes across very much as a play of its time or, rather, of its times. It was written in 1981 when the Soviet bloc was still very much in place, Section 28 was very much in the future and the 1930s is seen as a time when power structures based on the old boy networks of Oxbridge and public school were beginning to crumble.
Does the play actually work for a contemporary audience? And, if so, is it as a historical piece or does it manage to pick up on more contemporary themes of institutional cover ups or the treatment of social outsiders? On both counts, I would have to say “no”. One of the most curious things about last night’s performance at the Oxford Playhouse was the amount of laughter from the, largely young, audience - for much of the play it felt as if we were watching a light comedy rather than a serious drama.
Generally good performances were sometimes undermined by a tendency to gabble and a failure to project. Peter Huhne, as Guy Bennett, was an inspired piece of casting, whilst Francis Thomas (Jim Menzies) and Tom Lambert (as Wharton, the junior dogsbody) gave outstanding performances in supporting roles. Credit should also go to the set designers who managed to capture the sense of claustrophobia and decay that infuses the play.