This 2021 livestream from Oxford Playhouse returns to the Original Theatre platform on-demand, which means we can all enjoy the talents of its powerhouse veteran cast David Jason, Stephanie Cole, and Anton Lesser.
Reuniting to record interviews for a TV ptogramme, these three former special operatives reminisce about their former colleague Patricia and the harsh realities of the Second World War.
Leo Marks (Lesser) was a codebreaker; Vera Atkins (Cole) trained female agents set to go behind enemy lines; and John Harrison (Jason) is a surviving prisoner of war.
Under the direction of Philip Franks, who worked on many of Original Theatre’s digital productions, these three are given space to find their characters – A Cold Supper Behind Harrods is a rehearsed reading of a play all three previously performed on radio in 2012.
David Morley’s play is never cosy but is deceptively shrouded in early bonhomie. These former colleagues may plead failing memories but also wish to settle old scores and to find the truth somewhere between what the young audience for the documentary want to hear and the unpalatable reality.
This is a very strong piece – yes, there are a few line stumbles but nothing that spoils the flow. Cole and Jason are rare sightings on the stage these days – one plus of the pandemic when this was made brings them back – but they feed quickly of the energy of each other and of Lesser, who still regularly splits his career between stage and screen.
A Cold Supper Behind Harrods is full of the politeness of British professionalism, but with a sharp edge. Although Cole’s Atkins is mainly unfazed and formidable, you’d welcome her on your side in a crisis.
Lesser’s Marks and Jason’s Harrison (not a real-life character like the other two) both draw on young infatuation and mature regret. Both believable and pathetic, they show how war can crush the spirit through personal experience.
This is a pleasure to watch and at just an hour, it is a tight and tense piece with a satisfying finale. You can now rent A Cold Supper Behind Harrods here.