Single Spies at Chichester Festival Theatre

Belinda Lang stars in Single Spies by Alan Bennett. Picture: Thom Brown
Belinda Lang stars in Single Spies by Alan Bennett. Picture: Thom Brown
Quiz is at the Minerva Theatre until December 9. Picture: Johan Persson.

REVIEW: Quiz at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester

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One was an actress with a love of furs and colourful language. The other is our reigning monarch.

But what does Coral Browne and the Queen have in common?

I’m not going to reinvent the Queen, I’m just going to do the play

Belinda Lang

Well, two things: Single Spies, the play by Alan Bennett, and Belinda Lang, who will play both when the tour comes to Chichester on Thursday until February 13.

Belinda has big shoes to fill in playing the Queen, including those of Helen Mirren and Emma Thompson.

When she speaks to Wow247, Belinda is only two weeks into the rehearsal period. The second the ‘Q’ word is mentioned, she says: ‘I know what you’re going to say! I’m only two weeks into rehearsal and the expectations are so high. I feel like a complete nit.

‘I’m not going to reinvent the Queen, I’m just going to do the play.’

Single Spies is comprised of two separate acts. The first, An Englishman Abroad, is based on the true meeting of Coral Browne with Guy Burgess, a member of the Cambridge Spy Ring who worked for the Soviet Union while with MI6.

The second, A Question of Attribution, is based on Anthony Blunt’s role in the Cambridge Spy Ring and as personal art advisor to the Queen.

Coral Browne won a Bafta for playing herself in a TV adaptation of An Englishman Abroad, and Belinda says there’s plenty to sink your acting teeth into.

‘Coral was the archetypal actress – sassy and camp in a theatrical kind of way.

‘When the play was performed at the National Theatre, she was so offended that the actress playing her wore a fake fur, so she sent the producers one of her own.’

With last year’s film Lady in the Van, Alan Bennett is having a resurgence in popular culture. But for Belinda he’s never gone away.

‘He’s a brilliant comic writer. His style is deceptive; it seems so simple, you think he’s just sat there with his pen on his tongue, thinking up the next bon mot, when in fact it’s meticulously crafted. There isn’t a lazy sentence.’

Tickets: from £14, visit cft.org.uk to book.