Photos Reviews

Pack of Lies

Mar 2011

by Avril Pattinson


Barbara - Chris Eilbeck

Bob, her husband - Howard Eilbeck

Julie, their daughter - Roslyn Mitchell

Stewart - Alan Caig

Helen - Maggie Bourgein

Peter, her husband - Bill Pattinson

Thelma - Maggie Butt

Sally - Anny Kilbourne


Estuary Players are grateful to the following for their help and support with this production: -

Liz Hodges - for the use of rehearsal space at The Globe

Topsham News - for acting as Box Office

Topsham Handyman Services - (call 879712)

Berrybrook Garage, Exminster - for the loan of motor bike helmet

Steve and Angela Hilton, Veronica Coe, and the Topsham Community Association -

Production Team:

Director - Avril Pattinson

Assistant Director/Prompt - Janine Warre

Production Manager - Chris Williams

Stage Manager - Freddie Jacobs

Lighting - Peter Tapp

Sound - John Bradley, Maggie Bourgein

Props - Cally Pettit, Rosie Munns, Freddie Jacobs

Wardrobe Co-ordinator - Janine Warre

Set construction - Eliot Wright, John Bradley, Tom Epton

Publicity - Maggie Butt, Angela Wallwork, Rose Gander, Alan Caig

Website - Des Gander

Poster - Phil Keen

Programme - Alan Caig

Photographs - John Sanders, Victoria Jones

Front of House - Maggie Butt, Sharon Wannell


From Unknown:

Thought provoking, and unsettling ...

A documentary thriller by Hugh Whitemore.

This play has it's origins in the BBC's Play of the Month Series and Act of Betrayal, as it was then known, was first broadcast in January 1971.

The substance of the plot is the true story of the Portland Spy case of 1961 and, in particular, the part played in those events by Peter and Helen Kroger. The Kroger's enabled the Soviet spy ring to transmit their stolen secrets back to Moscow.

Hugh Whitemore explores how the Kroger's built their air of respectability, how they created their cover and used the ordinariness of the lives of others to conceal their real identities and their deadly serious mission.

The plot is a real 'slow burner' and you are drawn into it through the very respectable, unremarkable and almost mundane, lives of the totally unsuspecting Jackson household, Bob, Barbara and their daughter Julie.

The Jacksons live opposite the Krogers, believing them to be a convivial Canadian couple and their closest friends. Then the mysterious Mr Stewart arrives, announcing he is a 'civil servant' and 'something to do with the police'.

He quietly coerces the Jacksons into allowing their house to be used as a surveillance post. In the nightmare months that follow, the Jacksons' decent, happy life is shattered as the truth about their much-loved friends is gradually revealed to them and they are led into a world of deception and treachery, Barbara reaches breaking point with the agonizing realization that the Krogers have betrayed her and she, in turn, has betrayed the Krogers.

Thought provoking, dramatic and unsettling, this beautifully crafted play has been in the very safe hands of the Estuary Players and their Director Avril Pattinson.

A simple set and great emphasis on characterisation by all members of the cast ensured that our emotions were, firstly, well and truly placed into our middle class comfort zone. Then slowly taken apart as the Jackson family dealt with the realisation their close friends were not who they thought they were.

Bob and Barbara Jackson played by Howard and Chris Eilbeck made us feel at home with their respectability and so, having established an empathy with them, we felt their pain as their lives fell apart.

Julie (Roslyn Mitchell) made us smile with her young and enthusiastic teenage take on life.

The quiet, insistent and authoritative Mr Stewart (Alan Caig) was so convincing as the understated civil servant with a core of steel.

The Kroger's, portrayed by Maggie Bourgein and Bill Pattinson, emphasised our ordinary lives with their big personas and their apparent affluence.

The two police women (Maggie Butt and Anny Kilbourne), though playing fairly small roles, nevertheless contributed to the overall conviction of the play.

The snapshots of family life, the lively 'popping in and outs' by Peter and Helen Kroger, the visits of Mr Stewart are interspersed by each characters personal and private thoughts which are delivered as soliloquies. These give an unusual and fascinating dimension to the play and were all well performed.

My only critical comment is that the time required for positioning these important moments and then reverting back to the action of the play, did sometimes take the edge off the pace. Being a 'slow burner' this inevitably, in some places, needed to be quite gentle.

It would probably have been difficult to avoid these slight time lags as the auditorium dictated the number of entrances and exits available to the cast and it certainly didn't detract from the quality of the production as a whole.

In conclusion, this was a powerful work very well performed. Listening to the retiring comments of the audience it was clear they had had an enjoyable and absorbing evening. Many were in deep discussion about a number of aspects of the show in the foyer afterwards. I suspect their discussions would continue into the following morning as they thought more about what they had seen.

Indeed, as I put my thoughts on paper, I received a text from a friend, who came with me, saying she had been digging into the background of the play and had discovered that the young Julie really does exist and is quite a well known journalist...

But I'll leave the reader to discover who that might be!

- Reviewed by: Mike Palmer


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