by Julian Mitchell.
Trafalgar Studios (Studio 1) 14 Whitehall SW1A 2DY To 21 June 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat 2.30pm.
Runs: 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7632.
Review: Carole Woddis 4 April.
The past is still so relevant.
It seems that a production of Another Country can spawn a whole new generation of young male actors. The 1981 premiere introduced Rupert Everett in the iconic role of Bennett, the overtly gay sixth form student in Julian Mitchell’s 1930s tale of the making of a very particular kind of British spy, and on transfer from Greenwich Theatre to the West End a young Kenneth Branagh as Judd.
Loosely based around the Cambridge spies, Philby, Burgess, McLean and Blunt, if Waterloo was said to have been won on the playing fields of Eton, Mitchell argues that the hypocrisy endemic in our public school system produced, paradoxically, the outsider and the radical through emotional forces.
Another Country is a highly intelligent, almost dialectical drama showing this development through the prevailing political storms of their day and more personally by the ostracism and response to homosexuality of the establishment.
Jeremy Herrin’s fine, assiduously recreated Chichester production, with its opening rendering of `I vow to thee my country’, its wood-panelled library, cream cricketing flannels and grey schoolboy suits, shows how much the past, far from being `another country’, is still with us today.
Homosexuality may have come in from the cold, and communism been discredited, but the emotional scars inflicted by the public school ethos remain clear for all to see in our governing classes. The English public school remains the incubator par excellence of both a sense of elite destiny and sly deception.
As the rebarbative Bennett, the newly Guildhall graduated Rob Callender carries all the swagger and precocious brilliance of his predecessor, whilst the Attenborough dynasty can hail another recruit in Will Attenborough’s assured Judd, the studious and already committed Marxist reading his Karl Marx by torchlight and arguing at every opportunity for the irrelevance of personal feelings in the new world being born.
They make a perfect contrast. But here is also a host of other recognisable types – Fowler the sadistic bully, Barclay the vacillating liberal, Wharton the terrified junior. And even the older man, the mentor in the shape of guest lecturer, Vaughan Cunningham, suave, erudite and persuasive sensualist.
Judd: Will Attenborough.
Bennett: Rob Callender.
Devenish: Mark Donald.
Menzies: James Parris.
Fowler: Rowan Polonski.
Delahay: Cai Brigden.
Barclay: Mark Quartley.
Sanderson: Dario Coates.
Wharton: Bill Milner.
Vaughan Cunningham: Julian Wadham.
Director: Jeremy Herrin.
Designer: Peter McKintosh.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Associate director: Hannah Banister.
Associate designer: Simon Wells.
First performance of this production 4 September 2013 at Theatre Royal Bath. First performance at the Minerva Theatre Chichester 19 September 2013. First performance at Trafalgar Studios, London 26 March 2014.