The Communist Threat
3 stars ****
Zoo Southside (Venue 82)
THE YEAR is 1950, and in a hotel room in Vienna, two men confront one another. Both work for Britain’s secret servive, M16; but Kip is a classic product of public school and Oxbridge, while Albert has a working-class accent, and is at first dismissed by his colleague as some kind of junior employee, the kind of chap who might have made sergeant during the war, with a bit of luck.
The tables are soon turned, though, in David Holmes and Kieran O’Rourke’s brisk and clever short drama for the Rusted Dust company, when it turns out that the Oxbridge chap is the one under suspicion as to his loyalties, while his colleague is acting on behalf of top M16 management. The conversation gradually becomes dominated by a third, absent figure, Kip’s homosexual lover, a clever chap with communist leanings who has been caught passing secrets to the Soviets.
It’s this third man’s recklessness – or need to act on his political beliefs – that leaves Kip in a dangerous impasse between love for his partner, and love for his country. And although the play only touches very lightly on the enduring questions about patriotism and nationhood it claims to explore, it makes a fine job of capturing the class and Cold War politics of a particular time, long gone; a time when love between two men still hardly dared to speak its name, and was enough to send thousands into exile, from their country, from their families and communities, or from themselves.