Old Vic Theatre, London, June 15-July 28
Author: Michael Frayn
Director: Paul Miller
Cast includes: Patrick Drury, Aidan McArdle, Ed Hughes, Richard Hope, Andrew Bridgmont, James Quinn, William Hoyland
For many years the unprepossessing Gunter Guillaume served as chief lieutenant to German Chancellor Willy Brandt during the stormy 1970s when the country began to climb its way out of recession and towards the unification of east and west. The two were inseparable, travelling and even holidaying together with their families and Guillame witnessed both the intimate secrets of government and the brilliant leaders promiscuity and mental instability. The trouble was, as we discover at the start of the evening, he was spying on his boss. Pretty soon the assignment becomes an obsession. It’s an extraordinary romance of sorts, the play even intimates that Brant knew yet continued to work alongside the traitor. Both men are straight but this is an epic love story of two men in a bizarre and unstated collusion.
Or it could be. In fact, although the story exerts a slow burn grip, it’s all rather dry. Most significant moments are reported rather than shown and it’s hard to keep track of which grey middle aged politician is which. When playwright Michael Frayn does dramatise interaction between the two central characters it’s oven very poignant but these moments are few and far between.
The cast give credible if unremarkable performances playing remarkable men. I suspect Paul Miller’s production is at fault as his under characterised cast wander around huge empty expanses of the bare, slate grey set.
This is one of those evenings when ultimately the historical background notes in the programme are more interesting then the play they inspired but it’s an intriguing real life story that’s worth a look if you’re in the area.
VERDICT: *** (Three Stars) An intriguing slice of history that disappoints as a play