Set in 1950, in the underground basement of a luxury Vienna hotel, this impressively-scripted play takes the form of a conversation between two secret service agents. The scene is set ostensibly for the “termination” (read murder), to be disguised as a suicide, of an unsuspecting guest in the hotel. But the tables turned when working class man Mr Nightingale, derided by his middle class associate Mr Kingfisher, launches an interrogation.
Mr Nightingale has a humorous turn of phrase, and disagreements about cricket stand out, bringing light to the dark undertones. Yet both men are armed, and there is the unidentified voice on the telephone.
Mr Kingfisher, meanwhile, is proud of the refined trappings that set him apart, speaking of Vivien Leigh’s “ephemeral beauty” cast alongside Laurence Olivier in the West End. Sparring between the two men adds welcome humour, keeping the audience absorbed and on our toes.
In fact, this new script from David Holmes and Kieran O’Rourke is a masterclass in what playwrights should aim for in a plot. The story is superb, packed with ideas and full of drama, with suspense building throughout. As the pace gathers, there are several twists which never failed to surprise, culminating in a shocking finale. I could not have predicted the ending.
But there could have been more contrasts within the characterisation. The figures are a little stereotypical, and while one man has an obvious crisis of need versus want, further development of motivations will be beneficial if the script is extended. I certainly hope Holmes and O’Rourke have the opportunity to expand it from the current 45 minutes to a full length play.
Right now, though, the compelling storyline ensures that the audience will not be disappointed. This is a historical tale told in a contemporary way, and as such will appeal to classical theatre aficionados and modern audiences alike. I recommend it play as an up-to-date take on an old fashioned spy story – and it’s entertaining from the outset. No prior knowledge of the cold war is required.