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Spy for Spy | Riverside Studios

An intriguing and inspired concept exploring life as a shuffled playlist, ‘Spy for Spy’ written by Kieron Barry and directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson explores the impact of perspective and prior knowledge. This show is almost guaranteed to be performed in a different sequence each night, as the audience randomly choose the scene order before the curtain rises. 6 scenes which means 720 potential combinations - interestingly considered in the author’s note as ‘the way in which friends or lovers sprinkle their narrative fragments is often careless and impulsive’. I was keen to experience the potential power of this concept. This idea is cleverly translated to stage and the artistic intent was clearly understood and delivered.

I identified little easter eggs throughout which helped tie the tangled scenes together. These odd comments aided the cohesion of the piece so that it could be seen as a whole unit, rather than a presentation of independent scenes. Also, I liked the casual mentions of playlists and the order of life by the characters as it was a nice nod to the context of the play.

Despite the story making sense in any order, I think there is a reason why shows usually have a pre-determined progression of scenes. ‘Spy for Spy’ proves that elements of your life can be non-chronologically discovered by various peers and that this can impact their interpretation of you. The show only works knowing that this is the point aiming to be conveyed. Aside from this, the story of Molly (Olive Gray) and Sarah’s (Amy Lennox) lives themselves did not engage me as an audience member. Put simply, the play’s concept encouraged excitement, but the content left me disappointed.

I was not compelled by the material as I couldn’t find myself rooting for the characters, despite the nature of their relationship and the journey it inevitably takes. Unable to strive for a hopeful outcome because I couldn’t genuinely believe that this is what Molly and Sarah wanted, I could not gravitate towards either the story or the characters. Limited chemistry and unnatural fluctuating attitudes to each other, there was little to incline me to believe in their relationship. No real spark could be recognised.

Awkward humour was scattered throughout the script. It was unclear whether the jokes were added in for the audience’s benefit or in an attempt to elevate the couple’s relationship. Minimal laughter was exhibited by the audience at lines that may have perhaps been intended to induce amusement.

I appreciated the set design (Bethia Jane Green) as with an addition of small props, it could be made universal to each scene- whether an orangery, living room, or bedroom. Moreover, I enjoyed the moment the windows were opened as the bright lighting from ‘the outside’ was allowed in (Holly Ellis).

‘Spy for Spy’ has such great potential, with a creative and innovative idea in regard to the arrangement. Opportunities galore, this show should have relished in its possibilities. Therefore, it was a shame that the script itself was not as original.

Spy for Spy plays at Riverside Studios until Saturday 2nd July. For more tickets and information, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Ben Ealovega


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