The Old Country

This show has now closed, click here for a listing of current and future London shows

Previewed 13 March 2006, Opened 20 March 2006, Closed 6 May 2006 at the Trafalgar Studios 1 in London

Alan Bennett's play The Old Country deals with questions of loyalty and betrayal, homeland and exile, friendship and family, in a way which is both extraordinarily funny and exceptionally touching. This revival stars Timothy West, Jean Marsh and Simon Williams and directed by Stephen Unwin.

The Old Country is about Hilary, a British spy in exile in the Soviet Union, traitor to King, country and class. When his sister and newly knighted brother-in-law come to visit him and his long-suffering wife, Bron, they are forced to re-examine their allegiances.

Timothy West on his role as 'Hilary' in The Old Country: "It's very much an analysis of his feelings about returning home and what he'd like to find there, and whether in fact he should be trying to find reasons to go back or not. It's a play that I saw and liked very much in 1977; it's extraordinarily profound and Alan Bennett's writing is absolutely fascinating. It struck me that it had a very particular feel, quite unlike Alan's other plays about real people who were spies, this is about an imaginary man."

"Alan Bennett's The Old Country was first performed in 1977, with Alec Guinness as the British traitor in exile in Russia. I suspect he made a better fist of it than Timothy West's Hilary, who is bored and bitter but surely too faltering to have managed the many faces or negotiated the moral maze necessary to deceive his family and betray his country. Despite some brilliant writing, it's better on the page than the stage, where it seems - in Stephen Unwin's production, anyway - cerebral and static... The setting, a dacha among fir trees, has a distinctly Chekhovian air, which is enhanced when Hilary's towny sister (Susan Tracy) arrives from England in an outfit better suited to Ascot. Her husband (Simon Williams) is one of those establishment Brits who knows everyone and can fix anything - anything, that is, except his homosexual tendency, which has led to betrayals of his own. Jean Marsh gives a wonderful performance as Hilary's wintry wife Bron, but none of the characters is ever more than a talking head." The Mail on Sunday

Alan Bennett is responsible for a number modern day stage classics including Talking Heads, The Lady in the Van, The Madness of George III, and more recently, the multi-award winning The History Boys. He received an Olivier Award in 2005 for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre.

The Old Country in London at the Trafalgar Studios previewed from 13 March 2006, opened on 20 March 2006 and closed on 6 May 2006