Pack of Lies


At the height of the Cold War it was the news story that shocked the nation - Russian spies Peter and Helen Kroger had been at work for years in the English suburbs.

They turned out to be part of the Portland Spy Ring, guilty of transmitting secrets about Britain’s nuclear submarines back to Moscow. 

This revival of Hugh Whitemore’s play, Pack of Lies, focuses on the fallout caused when MI5 closed in on its prey amidst the semi-detached anonymity of deepest Ruislip.

Director Christopher Morahan’s production examines how the lives of decent but essentially dull couple Bob and Barbara Jackson are thrown into turmoil when the security services use their home as the main surveillance point to entrap the supposedly Canadian neighbours they have always known as friends. 

 Simon Shepherd and Jenny Seagrove are excellent as the Jacksons, torn between loyalty and duty and tortured by the deception they are being forced to engage in.

As the man from the Ministry, Stewart (a fine performance from Daniel Hill standing in for an indisposed Roy Marsden) and his agents gather evidence against the Krogers, old certainties collapse and doing the right thing slowly begins to feel decidedly wrong.

Lorna Luft is great as loud and flashy ‘Auntie Helen’ who brought  so much fun to the Jackson’s lives but is unmasked as a KGB Colonel. Robert Slade is her quietly determined husband Peter masquerading as an innocent book dealer.

With a set that cleverly conveys the feel and atmosphere of suburban England at the end of the 1950s, this production is touring as part of a  pre-West End run. It plays Lighthouse at Poole until Saturday (Feb 28).

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022