Bed Peace: The Battle of Yohn & Joko | The Cockpit, NW8

Playful cultural references and pop lyrics collide with big themes in this lively re-telling of John and Yoko’s Bed-In


Jung Sun Den Hollander as Yoko Ono and Craig Edgley as John Lennon.

While we may think we’re unique in living through such turbulent times, 2019 does not have the monopoly on awfulness. In fact, compared to the last years of the Sixties, we’ve got it easy. In 1969 tensions ran high – the Vietnam War continued to rage pointlessly on, while protests by students desperate to stem the carnage would turn violent as the establishment, angry at having their authority challenged, pushed back with sometimes deadly results. A stream of high-profile assassinations added to a decade running with blood.

And then, in the midst of this, here’s a Beatle in bed with his new Japanese wife, herself assassinated by a racist, sexist media (oddly only lightly touched on in this play – the level of misogyny and racism Yoko faced remains shocking and still goes unchallenged).

Bed Peace: The Battle of Yohn & Joko is a semi-fictionalised account of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s week in bed in a luxurious Montreal hotel – their infamous Bed-In that spawned, if not peace, then plenty of cultural kindling – that mixes real-life events and verbatim script with myth, pop culture and lyrical references.



Amelia Parillon 


Directed and devised by Rocky Rodriguez Jr. this Craft Theatre production is a lively, spirited play that uses John and Yoko’s sit-in as a vessel to explore racism, and to a lesser extent feminism, where Lennon becomes, briefly, the straw man, the privileged white man who is clueless – almost willfully blind – about the hardships of others. What can they achieve by sitting in bed in Montreal’s most expensive hotel, asks one of the characters?

The first half’s central scene climaxes with a powerful set piece as two African American characters struggle to convey  to an ignorant Lennon – and a gloriously awful example of ‘jeans & sheuxsss’ – how the civil rights movement may have given them the legal right to sit anywhere on the bus but hasn’t moved people’s prejudices on and they remain trapped by the injustices of societal racism. Amelia Parillon gives a spectacular performance in this scene, stunned to tears by the claims of white men that her fight is over, diminishing her experiences as a black woman with glib ‘we’re all equal now, love’ asides.

These are some big themes for a play about a pop star in bed, but this Craft Theatre production does successfully teeter on the edge of pulling off, helped along by some clever meta moments – (Lennon singing ‘Royal Britannia’ to Yoko surely a nod to the bath scene in Hard Day’s Night) and interweaving of lyrics, not all of them from songs written before March 1969.

These moments can’t quite help the production sagging in the second half, there’s a clear case for editing the play into a neater 90 minutes. But the rousing finale of ‘Give Peace A Chance’ – don’t go if you don’t like clapping along awkwardly – lifts it up again and suddenly everything seems OK in the world, at least until we step outside into our own divided society.

Bed Peace | The Cockpit, NW8 | Until April 28 2019

Theatre review: Glass Roots, Tristan Bates theatre

A sharply observed slice of social drama that examines racism and class

GLASS ROOTS by Alexander Matthews. Photo by Rory Lindsay (95)

Glass Roots by Alexander Matthews.

Glass Roots is the second play by writer and philosopher Alexander Matthews to be staged as part of the playwright’s debut season at the Tristan Bates Theatre, a hidden gem of a studio in Covent Garden.

While Matthews’ previous play at the Tristan Bates, Screaming Secrets, explored ruptured families and dark generational dishonesty, Glass Roots steps outside the front door and takes a look at wider societal fractures.

Glass Roots puts racism under the microscope, particularly in its relation to class. Thila (Natalie Perera) and her husband Sadjit (Kal Sabir) run an Indian restaurant in an unnamed – and largely unloved – part of south London. Sadjit is a reluctant waiter, writing poetry in-between serving chicken tikka masalas and beef madras. Thila,  his hardworking wife, is exasperated by his Byronic dreams as she juggles the more prosaic side of life. Their marriage is fractured, held back by unrealised dreams.

One of their regular customers is Celia (Victoria Broom) who has tonight brought along Rupert (Ben Warwick) on, what I took to be a first date – the kind of first date you dine out on for years to come – and not with the person you shared it with. They argue over their differing approaches to what Rupert (not the subtlest of names for a posho barrister ) describes as the ‘servant’ before veering into the subject of race. 

But before they can start throwing poppadoms at each other, the evening is interrupted by two racist thugs, Diesel (Mitchell Fisher) and Spaceman (Sam Rix) who sneer and threaten Celia and Rupert until they flee (coatless) leaving Sajit and Thila to fight off  racist abuse on their own.

In the middle of this storm Sajit and Thila are concerned only with the fate of their marriage. As they face the barrage of racial abuse, their focus isn’t on the spitting, bullying white boys in front of them, but on their future. When the men leave, it’s not the ordeal the couple discuss, but how they can make each other happy. It’s Thila who stands up to them fuelled, it appeared by a fury that felt provoked by boredom.

Glass Roots isn’t a theatrical game-changer. It never really answers the questions it asks, but it’s a taut, likeable play with largely sharp performances (the odd bout of  ‘hand acting’ aside). Sabir and Perera give particularly fine, controlled performances as the central couple who give the production a heart.

Glass Roots | Tristan Bates Theatre | Until 24 March 2018

Theatre review: Screaming Secrets, Tristan Bates Theatre

A piercing family drama seen through the eye of a philosopher’s lens

Jack Klaff as Alessandro, Ilaria Ambrogi as Gina and Jack Gordon as Antonio in Screaming Secrets.

Jack Klaff as Alessandro, Ilaria Ambrogi as Gina and Jack Gordon as Antonio in Screaming Secrets.

Family dramas are the cornerstone of theatre. Nothing packs a dramatic punch like a group of mismatched relatives coming together for an occasion. You know it’s never going to end with fond farewells and promises to share the vol-au-vont recipe.

Screaming Secrets’ set piece is Antonio’s birthday party where long held family tensions are unleashed in a cacophony of bitterness and tragedy. The mid-70s setting further magnifies the Pinter associations, although this birthday party doesn’t need strangers to inject the menace.

Twisting between melancholy, comic and downright tragic, the show interweaves philosophical threads that help pull together the play’s moral compass.

Philosopher Antonio (Jack Gordon) is grappling with his masterpiece and the meaning of life, while his frustrated writer girlfriend Monika (Triana Terry) clings to him, desperate for him to deal with real life and marry her.

Their row is diffused by the first party guest – Antonio’s “only friend” and his doctor, Simon (played with a compelling poise by Ben Warwick), who is half way through the first bottle of champagne when Antonio’s father and sister arrive, fresh off a turbulent flight from Italy. Their arrival signals the beginning of a bumpy ride for everyone.

We know before Alessandro’s arrival that his is being sued by his employees, many now dying due to diseases caused from working as his factory. Alessandro (Jack Klaff) wants to by-pass this problem and hand the family business to Antonio, who is reluctant yet conflicted.

But this problem is soon dwarfed by another, larger, sadder discovery when Antonio discovers his hypochondria might not be in his head after all.

Writer Alexander Matthews, himself also a philosopher, delves into life’s bigger questions: how are our morals altered by the shadow of death? And what does it mean to protect our loved ones? Should we be altruistic to the point where we actually hurt others?

Screaming Secrets is a well-paced drama, with energy and verve that perhaps doesn’t give you the big takeaway it promises to deliver, but will get you musing on the injustice – as well as the meaning – of life.

Screaming Secrets | Until 24 February 2018 | Tristan Bates Theatre WC2H

Theatre review: Rebel Angel, the Old Operating Theatre

Keats’ early life as a medical student is dramatised against Europe’s oldest surviving operating theatre

Rebel Angel 2 - Image by Chris Nash copy

Jonny P Taylor as Keats with Peter Broad as his guardian, Mr Abbey, credit: Chris Nash

As atmospheric venues go, the Old Operating Theatre in London Bridge is hard to beat. Creaking with history, the tiny amphitheatre was used, until its closure in the mid-1800s,  by St Thomas’ Hospital to demonstrate surgery – usually amputations on the poor – to medical students who packed the narrow rows that look down on the bloody show.

One of the students who passed through the garret theatre was young nightingale fan John Keats. The poet lived over the road with his friend and fellow medical student Henry Stephens, who would also ditch the amputations and go on to make a fortune in ink. 

Doe-eyed Keats realised early on in his medical training that he was more cut out for stanzas than surgery and this production of Rebel Angel examines his journey from reluctant student to his (very) early Endymion days. The play doesn’t follow a chronological order, so we oscillate between Keats’ childhood as an obedient, enthusiastic child attempting to soothe his mother, whose violent coughing signposts both her own demise and her son’s early death, and his days as a student.  We leave John at the end waiting for his coach on the first leg of his travels to Rome where he would go on to write the poems that would see his name mentioned in the same breathe as his heroes, Byron and Shelley.

Thankfully Rebel Angel is far less bloody than the shows the audience witnessed in Victorian times, although this production is every bit as fascinating and enthralling as those demos would no doubt have been to the young men of the time (except Keats’ queasy friend Tyrrell who wisely opts for the pub over another botched surgery experiment).

Keats, played with considered intensity by Jonny P Taylor, sacrificed much for his poetry and posthumous fame. He fought with his guardian, Mr Abbey, who had been left as the boy’s charge when his mother died when Keats was 14. In this production Mr Abbey (Peter Broad) represents the old school, a man who has little time for fancy words and dandy ways and Keats isn’t afraid to leave him behind in hope of poetry glory.

Taylor’s Keats is far from the waif like figure he is often portrayed as – all flouncy blouses and pining for Fanny Brawne – he is determined and single-minded. He’s not afraid to stand up to boorish surgeon Bill Lucas (also played with great pomposity by Peter Broad) after a slip of the knife ends another young patient’s life. And young John doesn’t so much woo young ladies with fine words as experiment with their hearts – his poetry his surgeon’s knife.

The small cast play several characters adeptly and director and writer Angus Graham-Campbell makes fine use of the confined and stripped back setting. As any student of English Literature knows, having a framework can enable a poem to pack an even greater emotional punch.

Rebel Angel | the Old Operating Theatre, SE1 | Until 7 October 2017

Theatre review: The Happy Theory, The Yard Theatre, E9

Big on heart and soul, Happy Theory is the latest thoughtful and funny production from the brilliant Generation Arts. 

Generation Arts. "The Happy Hour".

Those final weeks of school, as you lay down your pen on your final exam are, thrilling and terrifying in equal measure. It can feel as if you have the world at your feet, inundated with endless possibilities. But the weight of what you’re leaving behind can feel dizzyingly daunting. And not everyone is lucky enough for the end of their education to be the beginning of something bigger and better. 

The Happy Theory follows a group of school leavers as they head out into the world – some heading to Oxford, others to Bath, a couple are travelling (including inspiring teacher Denise) and then there are those who can’t find a way out of their current lives.

In between revising their algebra and adverbs (rather ingeniously used by nasty head of year Mr Brennan – Robert O’Reilly, who also does a stunning turn as Kim Kardashian) the teenagers discuss happiness. What is it they ask? Some say branded trainers, big houses, Lotus cars – ‘nice things’ insists orphaned Frank (Ike Nwachukwu). Swotty Elle (she’s the one off to Oxford) retorts: what about billionaire Phones4U boss John Caudwell? His money couldn’t prevent his son’s agoraphobic? Happiness, Elle – and her allies – says, comes from within.

We don’t get a definitive answer to the happy theory, but we do see friendships falter, only for the unspoken bond to draw them together again; relationships fail, futures set free. 

Happy Theory is in some ways life imitating art. Generation Arts offers quality, free acting and theatre-making training for young people in the margins. The young people performing tonight are also on the brink of something, something that they may not have had the opportunity to seize without the excellent job the project does.

Happy Theory is a heartwarming, pacey piece of theatre, with performances that range from good to excellent. And the fantastic work of Generation Arts imbues this production with a sense of purpose and heart that we don’t always see at the core of theatre.

For more information on Generation Arts, see here.




Theatre review: The Chemsex Monologues, King’s Head Theatre, N1

Patrick Cash’s tale explores the chemical highs and emotional lows of chill-outs.

The Chemsex Monologues at the King's Head Theatre

The Chemsex Monologues at the King’s Head Theatre.

The Chemsex Monologues weaves the stories of four characters who separately narrate their individual experiences in drug-fuelled chill-outs – post-club parties – the strands of their lives loosely threading them together.

Patrick Cash’s tale of a part of post-gay club culture introduced me to a whole new world (and lexicon). G for those that don’t know (me) is, what 90s kids like me knew as GHB, and GBL, drugs that give users a euphoric high on a knife-edge; the dosage to reach that high is dangerously close to the level at which users can overdose. 

The story is dark, funny and unflinching, but there is never any moralising over the characters’ occasionally ill-advised actions. There is a bleak under current to each monologue, but no one is cast in a tut-tutting light.

The characters are – crucially – engaging and all four actors bring a emotional weight to their roles, not easy when there is no one on stage to spark off.

Matthew Hodson as sexual health worker Daniel is a joy, a red wine sipping oddity among G-ed up party goers. His goodness is endearing and never patronising – his character could tip over into a camp parody with the joke firmly on him and his Freddie Mercury-loving enthusiasm, but it’s only ever sincere, warm and funny – and we’re laughing with him, not at him.

But Daniel’s story comes towards the end. First we meet our narrator (Kane Surry), on the night he meets a pretty boy – Nameless – on an all-night bender during a weekend back in London from his base in Paris. He is introduced not only to Nameless, but to G and chemsex before they drift apart 24-hours later under the halcyon lights in Vauxhall.

Nameless – played with frenetic energy that combines innocence with a toughness – by Denholm Spurr – is up next. He relives the day he met Saint Sebastian, a celebrated porn star, rollerskating down Old Compton Street wearing nothing but hot pants and angel wings. They meet again at Hustlaball before heading back to Old Mother Meph’s where events turn from euphoric to chaotic, fun to nearly fatal.

We’re back at Old Mother Meth’s again with Fag Hag Cath. A young and newly single mother who is looking forward to spending Valentine’s Day with her best friend, Steve. But the scene back at Old Mother Meth’s has a nasty edge that Steve looks likely to step over into a darker place.

The Chemsex Monologues is a sensitive portrayal of a world where heavy drugs and delicate minds collide in frank, witty, sometimes heartbreaking ways, each story brought to life by Cash’s sharp script and performances that dig deep into their characters.

The Chemsex Monologues | King’s Head Theatre, N1 | Until 9 April 2017

Theatre review: Don Quixote in Algiers, White Bear Theatre

Forget Don Quixote’s chivalrous adventures, this Don Quixote is a dramatic account of author’s Miguel de Cervantes’ time in jail after he was captured as an enemy soldier.


Rachel Summers as Zohra and Alvaro Flores as Miguel (c) Kwaku Kyei


Miguel de Cervantes, the man behind one of the greatest novels of all time, spent five years as a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire at a time when southern Europe and northern Africa were intwined in war and bound in shared recent history.

Don Quixote was captured in Algeria during the Battle of Lepanto in 1575 by Barbary pirates and was finally ‘freed’ in 1580 after he was ransomed by Trinitarian friars.

It was during those years languishing in an Algerian prison cell that Cervantes had the germ of Don Quixote de la Mancha that he would write on his return to Spain in the early 17th century.

Don Quixote in Algiers loosely collates these events and ties them together with a big thread of fiction and a dash of religious and cultural tension, every bit as relevant today as it was in the latter days of the 16th century. The play is set in Algeria which was, in 1578, a regency of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish base for fighting the Spanish in the western Mediterranean, and a fuse point for Islamic-Christian fighting.

Spanish captive Miguel (Álvaro Flores) is an intense, brooding figure, scribbling madly on paper that is quickly discarded. His Trinitarian friar is a local merchant called Si Ali who pays Miguel’s ransom so he can help him translate records into Spanish – a ruse for his real use, to act as his spy in the shadowy city.

Kwaku Kyei.jpg

Fanos Xenofos as the merchant Si Ali and Rachel Summers as his wife Carmen. (c) Kwaku Kyei 

Miguel’s presence soon intoxicates Si Ali’s daughter Zohra (Rachel Summers), who is as much a prisoner as Miguel, unable to leave the house except on rare trips where she must  be accompanied by a guardian. If she cannot escape her fate, she is destined to marry one of the dull men her father considers a suitable match.

Zohra’s imagination is sparked not just by the mysterious Miguel, but by her step-mother Carmen (Polly Nayler), a Spaniard captured by the Turks and sold to Si Ali. Her tales of growing up in a convent inspire Zohra to become a nun, although she has no interest in converting to Christianity, she simply wants time to read away from would-be suitors.

Will Miguel be her knight in tattered prison clothes as they plot to escape to Spain on a hole-riddled boat to Europe?

The atmosphere is as dense and claustrophobic as a prison cell thanks to designer Natalie Jackson’s clever set and Dinah Mullen’s constant, doom-laden soundtrack that gets under your skin.

Dermot Murphy’s script is a tangled web of intrigue where reality is as blurred as identity – and trust is as much a fugitive as Miguel. The production starts off strongly, aided by some great acting and clever direction, becomes rather bloated towards the end, where the narrative is derailed by heavy handed symbolism and overwrought dramatic devices.

But on the whole, the Condor Theatre Company punches above its weight within the small confines of the White Bear Theatre. Fanos Xenofós is a stand out as an exceptional Si Ali – composed, considered, his performance is grounded and warm – which perhaps the disparate ending of this production could have done more with.

 Don Quixote in Algiers | White Bear Theatre, SE11 | Until 4 March 2017

Theatre review: Pub brawl Shakespeare: Hamlet, Pack and Carriage

Buzzy, original and slightly anarchic, this is Shakespeare Camden style 


The play’s the thing – Fox and Chips’ Hamlet at Camden’s Pack and Carriage until 13 December 2016

I’ve always thought Hamlet would be very at home in a pub, holding forth over a pint of craft beer, getting rowdier and more self obsessed with every sip. So it’s apt to stage Hamlet in a sticky floored pub in Camden as a semi-immersive production.

Fox and Chips pub brawl Shakespeare is a fun, energetic, fresh production of Shakespeare’s Danish-set tragedy. The conceit is that Polonius is the bar manager and his pub the venue for evil Claudius and traitorous Gertrude’s wedding reception. While the audience never really move on from playing the audience, despite pre-performance banter, the setting helps to break down barriers that seems to spring up when people are presented with Shakespeare. And I’d always rather watch a production from a sofa with a pint of real ale (they do chips too, so what’s not to like?)

This production has a 1970s theme; the costumes are all flares and big collars and a poster of Bay City Rollers (at least I think it was Bay City Rollers) adorns the walls. This is never explained, but it highlights the dramatic soap opera elements of Hamlet. Anything that helps bring Shakespeare down from its lofty reputation to the very human level Will is speaking to is always welcome.

Fox and Chips’ production is engaging and well paced. The big speeches are delivered with a contemporary rhythm and without unnecessary fanfare or wink-wink knowingness that can dog productions. Imran Momen’s Hamlet cuts the right kind of teenage angst with that dash of cruelty; stropping, mean, inconsistence, he’s a man who loves you in the early stages and dumps you when you start falling for him – basically every guy you’ve ever met online dating.

Chris Kyriacou’s Claudius is a standout performance, and he’s well supported by Victoria Otter as Gertrude – not an easy role to play in my mind; I’ve never really figured out where my sympathies lie with her.

The production could maybe benefit from toning down the frantic physicality. There is often a temptation with Shakespeare to take the short cut to explaining the plot through gestures rather than letting the words – which let’s face is, are usually pretty good – tell the story leading to an over reliance on the physical.

But this is a small criticism of what is a brave, sparky, deconstructed and original performance of one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.

Plus, the ale is very good. H would approve.

Hamlet | Pack and Carriage, NW1 | Until 13 December 2016

Five Reasons To See Dreamgirls

The wait is finally over as Broadway smash Dreamgirls brings its glitz and glamour to London’s West End 35 years after this story of a 60s girl group first wowed New York audiences.  Here are five reasons why you need to get your ticket today.


  1. Amber Riley

Glee fans will already be familiar with Amber’s knockout voice and those who never heard her as sweet-natured Mercedes Jones are in for a spine-tingling treat. Amber plays Effie White in the show, the lead singer in The Dreamettes alongside her best friends Deena Jones and Lorrell Robinson, who soon discover that the path to fame is as strewn with heartbreak as it is dreams. For a sneaky listen to Amber’s power to set hearts racing and tears flowing, check out this preview of her singing ‘I Am Changing’.

2. The Songs

From heart-wrenching big ballads to Motown-style stompers, the Dreamgirls musical numbers will have you dancing in the aisles, sobbing into your popcorn – and humming them for days. Audience favourites includes ‘I Am Changing’, ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ and ‘Listen’ – originally made famous by Beyoncé in the 2009 film and now a part of the stage production.

 3. The Costumes

The spangly frocks, the wigs, the sparkly shoes – Dreamgirls is almost as famous for its fabulous costumes as it is for its killer tunes. And the costume changes are as frequent as a Diana Ross tantrum – the 2009 US touring production of Dreamgirls had over 460 costumes and 205 wigs. The London production’s wardrobe has been designed by renowned, Tony Award winning costume designer Gregg Barnes.

4. The Story

It’s not all singing and dancing, Dreamgirls is an engrossing and emotional story. The plot follows the fortunes – and failures – of Chicago-based trio The Dreamettes – Deena Jones, Lorrell Robinson and Effie White after they are discovered by ambitious agent Curtis Taylor, Jr. The girls’ career takes off under Taylor, but at a cost as it’s not long before he’s controlling their every move. Under the stress of success, cracks begin to show in the group as the beautiful Deena emerges as the star of the group over the gifted Effie. 

5. Be Part Of History

Dreamgirls first hit Broadway in 1981 directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett. The show won six Tony Awards and has toured the United States and the world. The show finally arrives in London in a highly anticipated new production directed and choreographed by the hugely successful, Tony and Olivier award-winning Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, Something Rotten!). One of the reasons why the show took so long to arrive in the West End was because producers couldn’t find the perfect Effie – until they discovered Amber. And who wouldn’t want to miss out on perfection?

Dreamgirls | Savoy Theatre | Booking from 23 November 2016 | Click Here For Tickets

Book review: A Perfect Spy by John Le Carré

An upstanding British spy has a past murkier than the North Sea in John le Carré’s cool, poised classic


Despite being a fan of TV espionage (I will watch anything with handsome spies sitting in smoky rooms, from ludicrous, bonkers Spooks to ludicrous, serious London Spy) my enjoyment of dramatised spy stories has never translated into books. Graham Greene’s murky world of post-war espionage in The Quiet American and his wonderfully comic novel Our Man in Havana are the closest I’ve come to the genre on the page.

And where else should I start investigating spy novels than with the master of the genre, John le Carré whose appeal has been given another boost with the recent super slick, beautifully peopled, totally ridiculous BBC production of The Night Manager. I enjoyed The Night Manager as much as I laughed at it, so I was keen to explore his written word and see how it compared to this campy, tense adaptation.

His 1986 novel A Perfect Spy is a dense doorstopper that follows the charming, mysterious Marcus Pym – a husband, father, respected member of The Firm, and the “greatest con I knew” according to his boss, Jack Brotherhood.

In the past and present, Marcus spins lies, creates personas to such an extent that even he no longer knows who he is. We begin at the end, just after the death of his estranged father an event that has tipped him over into an abyss that he’s been teetering on the edge of his whole life. His dad, Rick Pym (based on le Carré’s own father) was a crook, an old school cockney criminal who will charm your life savings from you and you’ll be glad he did.

The Pym we meet at the beginning is a seemingly upstanding English gent, his sometime landlady of the bed and breakfast retreat in an unnamed British coastal town is charmed by her ‘Mr Canterbury’. But unbeknown to her, Marcus is sitting locked in his attic room, spilling out his secrets and his past on paper, nurturing a burn box that holds information that could blow the USA and the UK apart. The race is on to find him, from his boss at M16 Jack Brotherhood, his wife Mary to his Czech agent Axel. Who will find Pym first?

As we follow the search, we move across time and the continent as we re-visit Marcus’ difficult boyhood to unravel his present. He sees his mother carted off to a mental institution, her stand-in, Libbie’s, twisted body after she jumps to her death. It is, as a great spy book should be, full of intrigue and suspense, but what I found most thrilling was le Carré’s writing. His style took me by surprise. I hadn’t accounted for the spymaster being such a beautiful writer, I always assumed his bestsellers were brash and plot driven, but his words are frequently lovely, even delicate despite his prose being as dense as the air in a room of chain-smoking spies. There is no easy chronological order to A Perfect Spy, his structure is fluid as we move between past and present with little fanfare.

I expected a heavy hand to write this most macho of genres, but the human relationships le Carré weaves are far bigger page turners than discovering which side of the iron curtain the protagonists are on. I didn’t always find A Perfect Spy an easy read, it was at times dense enough to be impenetrable, it’s aloof and unemotional and the female characters are willow-o-wisps, falling into either 1950s cookie cutter wives or sexy PAs who seduce their bosses with their minxy ways.

But while I may not be about to defect to the world of spies in fiction, I’ve definitely been caught in its web of intrigue.