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Single Spies in rehearsals – coming soon to Theatre by the Lake

Theo Fraser Steele (photo Robert Day)

[R]ussian spies, espionage, and an encounter with the Queen…things are hotting up at Theatre by the Lake with their next Summer Season 18 production, Alan Bennett’s award-winning comedy Single Spies. Currently in rehearsals, the show opens in the Main House on 14 June.

Single Spies premiered at the National Theatre in 1988 and won the 1990 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. Written by national treasure Alan Bennett (whose plays The History Boys, Habeas Corpus and The Lady in the Van have played to great acclaim at TBTL over the years), Theatre by the Lake’s production is directed by Tom Littler, who directed 2017’s Miss Julie which attracted rave reviews and transferred to London’s Jermyn Street Theatre following its run at TBTL. The cast features Karen Ascoe, James Duke, Theo Fraser Steele, Oliver Mott, Thomas Richardson and Toby Vaughan.

A compelling double bill of two short plays (An English Man Abroad and A Question of Attribution), Single Spies uncovers the true stories behind two notorious characters: Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, members of the infamous Cambridge Spies.

In An Englishman Abroad, double agent Guy Burgess has defected to the Soviets and is living in Moscow, deprived of his creature comforts. But when he’s visited by the actress Coral Browne, Burgess entrusts her with a top secret mission of her own.

As A Question of Attribution shows, there was nobody Sir Anthony Blunt didn’t know. As Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, he was on friendly terms with Her Majesty. But with an art forgery on his hands and a policeman in his office, Blunt’s latest trip to Buckingham Palace is looking awkward…

Tom Littler, the show’s director, said: “After directing Miss Julie last year, it is such a pleasure to be back in Keswick with Alan Bennett’s Single Spies. Whether you know anything about the Cambridge Spies or not, these are two engrossing plays. As Britain and Russia once again find themselves engaged in an espionage conflict in 2018, it’s fascinating to see these stories from the 1960s and 70s. But being Alan Bennett, there’s no shortage of laughs along the way!”

Members of the cast are also performing in Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense and Rails (currently showing) and Sense & Sensibility (from 9 August), with the plays running in rep until the end of the season.

Single Spies plays in Theatre by the Lake’s Main House from 14 June to 24 October (in rep with Single Spies and Sense & Sensibility in the Main House, and Rails and Bold Girls in the Studio). Tickets range from £10 to £36; for more information and to book tickets visit or call the Box Office on 017687 74411.

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