This is the first Eastern Angles production written by Ivan Cutting which he does not also direct. Instead, Naomi Jones is at the helm for Private Resistance, in which the role of Britain’s secret Auxiliary Units - the Home Guard with incendiary bells on - is acknowledged via a hypothetical German invasion in 1940.
Jones’ direction brings out some pulsating performances from the five actors involved. If there’s a niggle it’s that the human, engaging side of the characters they play, and which is developed with such warmth and care by Cutting and Jones in Act I, feels undermined in Act II by a mesh of information-heavy storylines about the politics and conspiracy theories of the time.
What holds the attention is the sheer calibre and precision of the acting in a play where the pace is, necessarily, rarely less than panic-stations.
Scenes are set in a secret underground bunker used by the Auxiliary Units, as well as the kitchen of Diane (Frances Marshall), who has 15-year-old Wilf (Fred Lancaster) and a feisty young servicewoman Prue (Bishanyia Vincent) as lodgers.
Vincent gives an utterly riveting performance, bending convincingly from flirty irritant to Jerry-hating patriot. She and Marshall, whose risk-averse matriarch is finely observed, spar superbly.
Lancaster’s schoolboy is something of a Famous Five cliche - and highly entertaining for it - while Phil Pritchard channels his aggression in exactly the right places as injured soldier Frank in Act I and a no-nonsense Communist operative Alan in Act II.
Meanwhile, Matt Addis’ character, Tom, seems slightly less well-defined and therefore less engaging than the others, but Addis works impeccably with what he’s got. Credit too, to set designer Fabrice Serafino for coming up with a typically evocative less-is-more Eastern Angles creation.