May 2014 – Pack of Lies

PACK OF LIES

PARLOUR PLAYERS, SANDERSTEAD

Reviewed by Peter Steptoe

 This 1983 play based on true episodes from the 1950’s had lost none of its potency. It was a spy story but without violence. It related to a quiet suburban close; a middle class husband and wife with teenage daughter, and their neighbours from Canada who became their best friends.

Hugh Whitemore cleverly wrote this as a slow burner with seemingly interminable mounting tension. The lack of any sound from the audience meant that Director John Shepherd had us firmly in his grip.

Getting a narrator from a member of the cast is not a new idea but having each of them in turn was, and did indicate character. Sue Rider played ordinary housewife Barbara Jackson, whose rising sense of guilt at the betrayal of her friends was neurotically displayed, with husband Bob (Chris Bishop) doing his level best to support his wife and country. As a married couple they were believable and Emily Dean as adolescent daughter Julie effectively portrayed the exaggerated fears and joys of her age group.

Ron White as Mr Stewart made sure we were not sure whether we liked him or not; which says much for the writing and his acting. He was out to catch the spies and yet made us feel uncomfortable.

Lovely across the pond accents from Helen (Felicity Abbott) and Peter (Phil Wright) Kroger who were attractive characters and I rather hoped they would escape at the end.

Harriett Jackson as Thelma and Jane Swale as Sally watching from upstairs upon the Kroger’s house added to the tension.