Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

lies head

Pack of Lies

Moorpool Players

Moorpool Hall


HOW would you react if you discovered your close friends, perhaps your best friends were, should we say, less than kosher?

That is the dilemma facing Bob and Barbara Jackson and their daughter Julie, a painfully ordinary family, much like the majority of families in the uniform streets of Ruislip in London’s outer commuter belt.

When they are asked about a mysterious stranger by a plausible gentleman called Stewart from the . . . well, the more shadowy reaches of the civil service, they then agree to one of his staff observing from their front bedroom -just for the weekend and only during the day – a course is set on a journey you know is not going to end with everyone living happily ever after.

At first you are waiting for a twist in the plot or a Christiesque red herring or two, but real life is not like that, and, as Stewart tells us early on, this a story which is largely true.pack of lies poster

All of which helps stand Hugh Whitemore’s 1983 play out from the cloak and dagger crowd. This is not so much a spy thriller as a sort of spy onion.

We are given the plot soon after curtain up and for the rest of the evening we see events unfold as layer after layer is slowly peeled away from the fabricated world created in a quiet street notable only for not being notable.

The poster from the West End production of 1983

The play is set in 1960 and Moorpool have done a fine job in giving a period feel to both set and costumes.

 That also applies to the cast and Liz Bridgewater gives a sterling performance as Barbara, an ordinary mum with a talent for amateur dressmaking and painting.

As the tension builds and a growing feeling of betrayal rears its head, her anguish is palpable with her effective hand wringing a lovely touch and her emotional outbursts have a real feel of authenticity about them.

Moorpool stalwart John Healey is a convincing Stewart, a civil servant in the . . . we never did find out which department, Always calm, always persuasive, always in control.

Mark Earey as Bob is a typical husband and dad, We never find out too much about him and he steers a middle course calming his wife as she starts to worry about her friends across the road, and about Stewart and her daughter Julie.

Emma Suffield is probably young enough to slip into the role of teenage daughter with no problem at all, with the odd flare up with mum, arguments about diets and, of course, the unsuitable boyfriend, all par for the course.

Then we have the neighbours, Canadians Helen and Peter Kruger, who get most upset if they are described as American.

Des Lea as Peter has just enough accent to suspect North America but not enough to lead him into trouble and he always seems to be careful of curbing excesses by Helen, played larger than life by Julia Biggs.

She is a friend indeed, around every day, jolly, happy and always willing to help or support; an ideal friend and neighbour with a nice and consistent American accent.

Then there is Thelma, played by Laura Bunster, who is . . . well a surveillance expert who sits in cars, vans or whatever in the cold just watching, so to find herself in a warm, dry bedroom withThe Kruger house in Ruislip coffee and even lunch is espionage heaven. She is posted there just for a weekend, which stretches into weeks by Stewart, building up a relationship with both Barbara and Julie.

We even briefly meet Sally, played by Caroline Whybrow, the relief spook for Thelma’s day’s off. She hates the ordinariness of the dull and boring life of the Jacksons . . . you’ll learn, sunshine, when you get kids and a mortgage . . .

The home of Helen and Peter Kruger in Cranley Drive, Ruislip

Director Linda Phillips builds the tension nicely and although you hardly need a degree in particle physics to work out the storyline from quite early on in proceedings there is still a fascination in watching how things develop and how slow and methodical real spying actually is - none of you wham, bam, thank you ma'am 007 stuff here.

Moorpool do remarkably well with a stage that has no flies and little in the way of wings and have created a simple, yet effective clever set creating two rooms, a kitchen and sitting room, divided by little more than imagination and two doors at the rear of the stage well lit by John Bolt.

Whitemore uses a clever device of each character, spotlit on a darkened stage, speaking directly to the audience in a soliloquy explaining about themselves, their lives, thoughts and backgrounds which is an effective tool.

As Stewart said early on in the evening, though, much of this is true and so it is, based on the Portland Spy Ring case of 1961, true right down to Det Chief Superintendent George Smith based at Scotland Yard, Stewart’s link to the world outside the shadows, and the mystery man, Gordon Lonsdale.

The result is a fascinating look at ordinary lives slowly being turned upside down in the murky world of Cold War espionage in an excellent production which runs to21 November.

Roger Clarke


The Portland Spy Ring 

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