Review: King's Theatre comes in from the cold with engaging tale of spies and spying

It was a historic moment as the curtain rose at the King's Theatre on Tuesday evening. After 486 days of being dark,​ the Old Lady of Leven Street reopened for its first live performance since lockdown forced its closure in March 2020​.

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 12:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 11:13 am
Oliver Ford Davies and Stephen Boxer as Graham Greene and Kim Philby in A Splinter of Ice
Oliver Ford Davies and Stephen Boxer as Graham Greene and Kim Philby in A Splinter of Ice

A Splinter of Ice

King’s Theatre, Leven Street

FOUR STARS (out of five)

On opening night, a thrill of excitement ran through the auditorium as the socially distanced and masked audience nervously settled down to watch A Splinter of Ice, the new play from Ben Brown. ​Gentle, witty and engaging, ​the piece, which runs all this week, is a delightful ​study of friendship​, deftly underplayed by a masterful cast of ​just ​three​.

​It's ​Moscow 1987 and the cold war ​is ​beginning to thaw. ​Novelist Graham Greene ​has ​travel​ed ​to the Soviet Union to meet his old MI6 boss, ​'​​Lucky ​Kim​', of Philby​, B​urgess and ​Maclean​ infamy.​

Under the watchful eye of Philby’s last wife, Rufa, the ​pair ​set about catching up and reliving the past. ​Just how much did the writer of The Third Man know about Philby’s secret life as a spy and did Philby betray his friend as well as his country?

As Greene and Philby respectively, Oliver Ford Davies and Stephen Boxer prove consummate story-tellers. Boxer brings wariness and weariness in equal measure to the traitorous spymaster while Davies attempts to understand his motivation bringing a forensic keenness to his questioning.

As the pair verbally spar, a genuine affection shines through, never more so than when Karen Ascoe's compassionate, but no nonsense Rufa is on stage, taking charge.

Directed with a fluid touch by Alan Strachan on a minimalist and effective set designed by Michael Pavelka, A Splinter of Ice is intriguing walk through the life of one of the most vilified characters of the Cold War and the ideal piece of storytelling to reintroduce audiences to the intimacy of the King's.

It’s worth noting that audience members are asked to arrive 15 minutes before the performance to allow staff to check them in on Track and Trace and dispense hand sanitiser before they enter the building.

Run ends Saturday, July 17

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