A comic look at real Cold War spies and lies

Belinda Lang as Coral Browne in Single Spies
Belinda Lang as Coral Browne in Single Spies

Alan Bennett’s comedy masterpiece Single Spies at the Lyceum in Sheffield next week takes his audience back to the Cold War.

Starring Nicholas Farrell, Belinda Lang and David Robb, the award-winning espionage double bill is a pointedly satirical snapshot of two members of the infamous Cambridge Five, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt.

Both were recruited as spies by the Soviet Union during World War Two and worked for years under the noses of the Establishment before they were finally uncovered.

Burgess defected to Moscow in 1951.

Blunt was not exposed until 1979, when he was stripped of his knighthood and other honours and withdrew from public life in disgrace until his death in 1983.

He appeared on BBC TV to confess his crimes.

These amusing and compelling plays span the globe from Moscow to London.

With forgery, fraud and hilarious blunders, Single Spies gives us a glimpse into a life full of espionage, secret identities and even an interrogation by the Queen.

The first piece, An Englishman Abroad, is set in 1950s Moscow.

Actress Coral Browne receives an invitation to lunch with shunned Soviet spy Guy Burgess, with the sole instruction to “bring a tape measure”.

This wry and touching play chronicles the pair’s fleeting friendship and Burgess’ attempts to cling to his way of life as a Soviet citizen.

Best known for his film roles in The Iron Lady and Chariots of Fire, Nicholas Farrell plays Guy Burgess.

A Question of Attribution gives us an intriguing glimpse into Anthony Blunt’s life of espionage within the very walls of Buckingham Palace itself.

Following his double life as an art historian to royalty and a Soviet spy, this witty tale of forgery and deceit culminates in a sharp and candid interrogation from the Queen herself.

The show’s arrival in Sheffield is timely, with the Queen celebrating her 90th birthday this weekend.

Belinda Lang, the star of TV comedy 2 Point 4 Children who recently appeared on the Lyceum stage in Oklahoma!, plays Coral Browne and the Queen.

Downton Abbey’s Dr Clarkson, David Robb, takes the role of Anthony Blunt.

Alan Bennett’s Single Spies is at the Lyceum Theatre from next Tuesday to Saturday.

Box office: call 0114 2496000 or go online at sheffieldtheatres.co.uk.