A Marvellous Year for Plums at Chichester Festival Theatre

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Peter Cook’s saying ‘I have learned from my mistakes – and I am sure I can repeat them exactly’ comes to mind in this cleverly woven retelling of the Suez crisis.

The events of 1956 sparked by Egyptian leader Nasser’s nationalisation of the major trading route are well known, but Hugh Whitemore’s injection of the main players’ personal intrigues draws out fascinating parallels with a controversy of our own times – the Iraq war.

There is the political fall-out which follows Anthony Eden (Anthony Andrews) lying to parliament about any collusion between Israel and the UK.

But it’s not just the politics that makes this anecdotal account of Suez a compelling piece of drama – the sex lives of the political classes make our world seem a little smaller.

For example, Ian Fleming’s wife Anne (Imogen Stubbs) having an affair with married Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell (Nicholas le Provost).

A wonderful way to revisit history, let down only slightly by a lacklustre performance by Andrews and too much caricature from Stubbs.

And just in case we are in any danger of getting carried away with the seriousness of it all, a gardener sums up the mood and memory of the general public when asked to remember what happened in 1956: ‘A marvellous year for plums’.

Until June 2.

ALINE NASSIF