Theatre Review: Pack Of Lies Reveals Emotional Cost Of Betrayal
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Russian government secret agents engaged in nefarious activities in a sleepy English town? No, not the Novichok case in Salisbury, but a revival of Hugh Whitemore's play Pack of Lies based on the true events of the Portland Spy Ring in the early sixties.
As an ordinary English family living in suburban London, the Jacksons' quietly contented lives are turned upside down when an MI5 official turns up to ask them to use their house to observe their Canadian neighbours and best friends the Krogers, suspected of being Soviet spies.
Rather than a Cold War thriller, Pack of Lies is instead a drama about moral dilemmas and the emotional cost of betrayal. The Krogers may have lied to the Jacksons about who they are, but by doing their patriotic duty are not the Jacksons becoming entangled in a web of deception themselves?
Finty Williams gives a superb performance as Barbara Jackson, a housewife and mother thrown out of her depth into a world of international espionage, movingly expressing the pain of lost trust. There is good support from the Chris Larkin as her decent, concerned husband Bob, Tracy-Ann Oberman as the colourful extrovert Helen Kroger and Jasper Britton as the polite but determined 'civil servant'.
Hannah Chissick's persuasive, slow-burn production gradually draws you in to the emotional drama, bolstered by Paul Farnsworth's astonishingly detailed ground-floor set where domestic cosiness belies global conflict. It's a fitting tribute to the accomplished craftsman Whitemore who died aged 82 in July.
Pack of Lies, Menier Chocolate Factory, 53 Southwark Street, SE1 1RU, £32.50-£42.50. Until 17 November
Last Updated 04 October 2018