Review: Spy Movie – The Play!, Hope Theatre

Spy Movie is an energetic and light-hearted farce that proves a great alternative festive treat at the Hope Theatre

“If you are not in the bar after the show, we are done”

Fully alive to the dramatic possibilities in the donning of a hat (or six), Matthew Howell and Jack Michael Stacey’s Spy Movie: The Play! borrows as much from their work with Mischief Theatre as it does from film spoofs such as Spy Hard to offer up an enjoyable hour of farcical comedy. Aiming to be a love letter to spy films AND the movie business AND fringe theatre, its set-up sees us immersed in the world of spy novelist Ian Flemish and secret agent Jane Blonde on a deeply serious case involving the novel Deep Pussy.

It’s so silly but so entertaining, a perfect antidote to any number of Christmas Carols or child-heavy pantomime audiences (Scroogish? Moi?!). Emily Waters, Jo Hartland, and Theo Toksvig-Stewart join Stacey in playing what feels like hundreds of characters as well as stage-managing any number of stunts* (waving pieces of cardboard or holding curtains up) as we skip from glamorous location to glamorous location in pursuit of an evil organisation with an acronym and character names that are as deeply serious as the case.

The inventiveness of the makeshift staging means that nothing is out of bounds. Opening cinematic montages, ski chases down mountains, perilous helicopter rides, zero-gravity fights in actual space, all are perfectly and hilariously realised on this intimate stage. Plus, the rapid-fire pace of the show also means if any of the jokes don’t particularly land for you – and there’s a lot of dad humour here to be sure – the turnover rate means we’re soon onto the next one.

For me, the only slight misfire comes with the meta-theatrical layer which is kept as a running gag though ends up distracting more than delighting, the limited run time here doesn’t really offer enough time for it to be developed sufficiently, to my mind at least. But overall, whilst the production still has some of its rough edges – this was the fourth performance – this only adds to its ramshackle charm, I kinda hope they don’t smooth it out too much for it is a rollicking good time as it is.

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