Old Red Lion Theatre
Reviewed – 26th July 2018
“The small space at the Old Red Lion is perfect for the piece, bolstering the sense of conspiracy, not to mention comedy”
A confession: I have never read a book by John Le Carré. Sure, I watched The Night Manager on telly, and I’m vaguely familiar with the name George Smiley, but beyond that I’m as in the dark about it all as his characters (presumably) would want me. With that having been cleared up, here is my review of an immersive, improvisational, one-man comedy based on the works of John Le Carré.
Luckily, as star and co-creator Neil Connolly assures us, my ignorance will not be an obstacle. Tonight, we are all co-conspirators in his game of spies. An agent has been killed in action somewhere in the Eastern Bloc under circumstances most suspicious and one by one we must all be signed up to “Operation: Stop the Greasy Reds”.
First, a handful of toy instruments are passed amongst the crowd to form the “house band”, or communications unit (who also end up providing the show’s soundtrack). Another hapless punter is designated “John Doe”, the victim, apparently killed by “unfortunate footwear”. Scalphunters, shoemakers, lamplighters, and janitors (official Le Carré terms, we are told) all play their part, but none quite so deftly as Connolly, who always keeps the piece on track, despite the anarchic twists and turns thrown up by the audience.
The small space at the Old Red Lion is perfect for the piece, bolstering the sense of conspiracy, not to mention comedy. Unlike some immersive theatre, the show doesn’t rely on expansive stage dressing or gimmicky set pieces. Instead we are carried through by Connolly’s talent as a storyteller.
I arrive knowing very little about Le Carré, and I leave knowing only a little more. However, in that time I laugh an awful lot and thanks to Connolly’s enthusiasm for the source material, I feel a bit closer to the dark and mysterious world he lovingly parodies. Perhaps it is finally time I came in from the cold and picked up a copy.
Reviewed by Harry True
Photography by Birdman Foxglove
Old Red lion Theatre until 18th August
Previously reviewed at this venue