An espionage thriller that starts off at a church fete with a cross dressed fortune teller is always going to be a bit of a surreal evening and The Ministry of Fear – a stage adaptation of Graeme Greene’s novel by Theatre Alibi does take some unexpected turns.
Set in the Second World War it’s a case of overlapping plots and mistaken identities as a film is being smuggled into enemy hands.
As a dark film noir this could work but on stage something is missing. Despite an impressive warped girder set (Trina Bramman) and an enthusiastic cast, each playing multiple roles, the action never really takes off. There are a few moments of tension and suspense but these are few and far between in the 2 ¼ hour production.
The first act needs much tighter pace to keep the audience gripped (It was telling to note a number of empty seats after the interval.) and by the time the tension does build in act two its too late to satisfy a feeling of disappointment.
One element that does work well is the live score for cello and woodwind, echoing both the joy of the big band era and the terror of the air raid sirens.
There is potential here but sadly the pieces of this jigsaw don’t quite fit together into a classic.