29 January 2014

Ciphers at Bush Theatre

Having discovered Bush Theatre only recently it has quickly established itself as one of my favourites thanks to it's programme, cafe/bar area, atmosphere and proximity.

They still need to fix the queueing though. I was in the queue good and early just behind a group drinking wine who were not really in a queue but then decided that they ought to be. No problem there. What did annoy me was the small group that decided to stand near to the door when the queue clearly ran along the bar. By doing so not only did they queue jump but they got in the way of the ticket collection desk and the toilets. They were American.

The theatre surprised me. I was used (after two visits) of it being laid out as a thrust stage with the audience on three sides but this time it was arranged as a normal proscenium stage.

I grabbed a seat in the front row, next to the Americans who had bagged the centre three seats.

The reason for using a proscenium stage soon became apparent as the scene changes were achieved by sliding screens across the stage (hence the grooves) with people and objects appearing and dispersing as they did so.

Ciphers was a good old-fashioned spy thriller in the mode of Spooks. And being a spy thriller I was never quite sure if what I was watching was real, or staged for the benefit of the "other side".

The plot was complicated by a little time switching and by using all of the actors in two roles.

The bits of the story that are, I think, not disputed are that a young woman is recruited in to the espionage services of the UK and Russia and is then killed. Whose side she was really on and why she was killed remained something of a mystery, or at least was open to interpretation, though we did learn who killed her.

The story moved on at a brisk pace with lots of short scenes; an interview, a date, an encounter, an interrogation, a meeting, a murder. These jumped between locations, times and characters so it was always an interesting challenge to keep up.

As with any realistic spy story there may have been an end but there was no ending.

It was fun to see a spy story for a change and this one was pleasingly done. I liked the construction of the play, the use of actors in dual roles and the acting was neat. Ciphers was another feather in the Bush Theatre's impressive cap.

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