Reviews: WHO IS NUMBER ONE?
Review by Sam from Slough
Having not exactly known what to expect when I first heard about this play, I would say that 'Who is Number One' is in effect a Prisoneresque version of the creation of The Prisoner. Not exactly an unpredictable idea as such, but one which was attacked with verve and energy by a talented cast and crew.
It follows production of the series through from presentation of the initial concept to Lew Grade, to the viewer reaction and aftermath. In doing so the authors have taken a combination of fairly well known facts and oft repeated myths to present an entertaining and dramatic account of the behind the scenes roller coaster ride experienced by those involved.
They have not been unwilling to bend known events to fit the narrative, and certainly anyone expecting a factually accurate (if that is at all possible!) version of events will be disappointed, but they have carried out the task in a coherent, plausible and entertaining manner. How much this departure from historical veracity is due to a lack of research, or intentional dramatic or poetic licence, is difficult to tell, and although this approach doesn't really affect the enjoyment of the production, a disclaimer in the (very brief) programme notes might have been helpful!
In terms of the production itself, the presentation is excellent. The show is sharply paced and smartly directed, and performed by an enthusiastic and energetic cast led by Murray Simon, who convincingly channels McGoohan's charisma, energy and anger in a compelling performance. Other cast members give excellent support, although it was a shame that an actor bearing more of a resemblance to Lew Grade could not have been cast. Much like the series itself, the script is thought provoking and inventive, with more than a democratic essence of humour.
Excellent use is also made of original soundtrack music from the series, adding to the 'Village' atmosphere. Like the series the play has a certain timeless quality, its theme being essentially the battle between the interests of art and commerce, although perhaps more reference could have been made to the melting pot of creativity that was unique to the period in which it was made, to add some historical context.
And who was Number One? That would be telling!
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