A Splinter of Ice ★★★★★ Jermyn Street Theatre | October 14 - 30, 2021


Ben Brown's A Splinter of Ice is a fascinating and thought provoking play recounting a fictionalised version of a real meeting between Graham Greene and Kim Philby in Moscow in February 1987. It is framed by references to Greene's iconic The Third Man. Alan Strachan and Alastair Whatley's direction is beautifully nuanced and immaculately paced. However, it is the performances which take this play to another plane. Philby was one of the most notorious spies of the twentieth century, but we are asked to consider was he "the honest thief, the tender murderer”? Stephen Boxer is superb and imbues Philby with an easy charm masking a more ruthless side; his wife, Rufa is played tenderly by Karen Ascoe. Oliver Ford Davies wears the role of Graham Greene like the comfortable jumper he has beneath his jacket; every word, every gesture, every look is perfectly placed. This is acting of the highest possible quality by both men. Maybe the conversation occasionally smacks a little of a chat show, but overall it is an unforgettable experience. Plays occasionally assume a life of their own and take flight, and there are moments here when these actors inhabit their characters so well that they become entirely real. The play is encapsulated by the words, there is “a splinter of ice in the heart of a writer, but a whole icicle in the heart of a spy.” Here is a piece of intelligent theatre raising many intriguing questions and offering truly superb performances.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by Steve Gregson.

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