Another Country - Review

Julian Mitchell's play, set in a British public school in the 1930s, explores the link between sexual identity and political awareness following the suicide of one of its pupils. In its two principal characters, Guy Bennett and Tommy Judd, one sees the fictionalised Cambridge Spies, Burgess and Philby. Its final scene attempts to explain, through Bennett, Burgess's justification for his treachery that forced him to serve "another country".

It is in the rarefied atmosphere of the public school that these two outsiders struggle to survive. They are not helped by their rebellious natures –- one sexual and the other political –- for which they both pay a heavy price.

Although the play is an impassioned plea against bigotry and hypocrisy, some wonderful comic lines to which the cast do full justice lighten its seriousness. A particular comic highlight in the play is the scene of the tea party that follows a lecture by the uncle of one of the pupils. Dennis Evans was wickedly funny as the predatory uncle.

Kieran Burke, as the gay Bennett, delivered a hilarious performance albeit a highly camp one when perhaps a more fey and subtle one would have been sufficient. In contrast Chris Nunn's Judd was a more down to earth performance –- a crusading but dull social reformer. The character may have been dull but he was provided with some comedy lines that were executed with superb timing. It is indeed encouraging to see these two actors move up from the Youth Section and take on major roles.

These central roles were complemented by exceptionally strong support from the rest of the cast. One appreciates that casting difficulties may have necessitated one or two of the actors looking a little too mature for their parts as schoolboys. That said they gave fine performances.

I understand that Laura Bennett was making her directorial debut with this play. If this is the case then I look forward in eager anticipation to her next production.

Barrie Jerram
18th December 2004