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Cell Mates: Opening Night

Published 8 December 2017

Betrayal, intrigue, prison break … spy drama for right now.

Cell Mates is a fascinating true story of the notorious double agent George Blake, serving 42 years in Wormwood Scrubs, who befriends charismatic petty criminal Shaun Bourke and persuades him to spring him from jail.

Both outsiders, both rebels in their own way – Blake is as watchful as Bourke is garrulous and the two form an intriguing odd couple. As the play unfolds, you are never quite sure who is most in thrall with the other… more than once it’s compared to a marriage.

Their daring escape from Wormwood Scrubs could be a play in itself (read up on it – it’s fascinating), but the action of the play focuses on the intriguing events after their escape – when an emotional Blake breaks down on Bourke and begs him to come and ‘holiday’ with him to Moscow.

Bourke acquiesces, despite his own desire to be back home in Dublin, but soon finds himself trapped in another prison, plusher but possibly even worse. Moscow swirls with KGB guards, curfew, death threats and an ominous ‘dacha’ that you definitely don’t want to visit. The two men are locked in circle of reliance and mistrust that keeps you in suspense right until the very end.

There are riveting performances from Geoffrey Streatfield and Emmet Byrne – bouncing off each other at every turn – and a splendid turn from Cara Horgan as both the feminist British doctor and adoring Russian housekeeper.

The knowledge that Blake is still living in Moscow adds an additional frisson to the evening. In a time where Russia and the West are still circling each other with suspicion this is spy drama that speaks directly to modern times.

Here’s what audiences are saying on twitter…



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Cell Mates Ed Hall Geoffrey Streatfield Hampstead Theatre

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