Another Country – reviews of 'compelling' schooldays drama

Apr 8, 2014

Revival of Mitchell drama about the boyhood of a Cambridge spy is 'funny, painful and relevant', say critics

Johan Persson

What you need to know
A revival of Julian Mitchell's Another Country has opened at Trafalgar Studios, London. Mitchell's 1981 play, inspired by the unmasking of the Cambridge-educated Soviet spy ring, was turned into a 1984 film that helped launch the careers of Rupert Everett and Colin Firth. 

The play is a fictionalised account of the schooldays of Soviet spy Guy Burgess and communist John Cornford. It follows Guy Bennett and Tommy Judd, two public school outsiders in 1930s England, one homosexual, the other a Marxist. When scandal strikes the school, the young men must decide what they stand for and make choices that will affect their lives and their country forever.

This production, directed by Jeremy Herrin for the Theatre Royal Bath, was first staged at the Chichester Festival last year. Runs until 21 June.

What the critics like
Mitchell's play about public-school betrayal is at once "funny, painful and very relevant", says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. Rob Callender gives a mesmerising performance as Bennett, the beautiful, witty golden boy turning rotten and Will Attenborough is excellent as Judd. 

"As a schooldays play about hierarchies, sex, suicide and loneliness, the piece hasn't dated," says Paul Taylor in The Independent. Mitchell's elegant, incisive writing still pleases and provokes and this production makes a good case for its canonical status.

Mitchell's play begins with sharp, amusing moments but soon "its ideas about appearance and reality become bloodier and more compelling", says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. And the cast, most of them fresh from drama school, convince entirely. 

What they don't like
There are some fine performances, but this production lacks pace, says Laura Barnett in The Observer. Some of the fault lies with Mitchell's script, in which "most of the dramatic action takes place off stage, leaving the characters with very little to do but talk".

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