Hapgood: A Play

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Hapgood review – Stoppard's spy drama infiltrates hearts and minds

Tell me when Kerner shows. Negative on Kerner. Target in lobby.

Ridley has seen him. Still negative on Kerner. Do I hear yellow?

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Mother, give me a colour, we're still - OK, we have a walker. OK, we have Kerner Target's got his key. You're looking at him. A man enters from the lobby. He wears a colourful tracksuit and running shoes. He carries a towel rolled up into a sausage, we assume the swimming trunks and cap are inside. He carries a key on a loop of string which mi ght make it convenient to wear as a pendant. He is otherwise empty-handed. We call this man russian one, because he is Russian and because there are going to be two of them. He is carrying a briefcase [but the briefcase may be inside a sports holdall.

The essence of the situation is that RIDLEY moves around and through, in view and out of view, demonstrating that the place as a whole is variously circumnavigable in a way which will later recall, if not replicate, the problem of the bridges of Konigsberg [and which will give RUSSIAN ONE time to undress]. Back to the plot. The towel appears, flung over the lintel, hanging down. WATES continues to shave. The shower continues to run. He carries a briefcase. He has a towel and a key. He looks around and posts his briefcase under the door with the towel showing [Cubicle Two].

A moment later his towel appears over the lintel. He chucks the towel over the door of Cubicle One. With the briefcase he disappears in the direction of the showers. He goes to the pool. He carries a similar rolled-up towel.

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However, he also carries a briefcase. He glances round briefly, and notes the towel on Kerner's door [Cubicle Three]. He posts his briefcase under Kerner's door. He enters a cubicle, Cubicle Four. He is at first relieved and then immediately disconcerted by the absence of Russians. WATES has finished shaving. He is packing up his shaving tackle. The shower stops running. There is a pause, and then the occupant of the shower, HAPGOOD, approaches, somewhat encumbered by a briefcase [Kernels original] a leather rectangular clutch handbag with a shoulder strap, and an umbrella which she is at the moment taking down and shaking out.

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From her appearance, the umbrella has been an entire success. She comes down into the light and leans the umbrella carefully against the cubicles, and stands pensively for a moment. She is apparently too preoccupied to acknowledge WATES, who is himself preoccupied with something which makes him shake with silent laughter. He is putting a heavy steel wrist-watch on his right wrist. Followed the man in, followed the wrong man out, meanwhile Merryweather's man turns around and leaves with the goods. Sort of dummy. The lobby doors open.


She undoes the catches and raises the lid. HAPGOOD has stood up, taking from the case aflat white cardboard box, a few inches square, the sort of thing that might contain a computer disc, which is what in fact it does contain. However, she is not the slightest interested in the box.

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She stands staring down at the open briefcase. These gadgets are going to get quite a lot of use and evidently the state of the an has arrived at a radio which is no larger and somewhat slimmer than twenty cigarettes. The radio speaks quietly. What for exactly?

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To radio Cotton. WATES moves quietly up towards the cubicles and calmly investigates them, one after another without fuss.

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Rather, I think the intimacy of the Lantern Theater space is a big help here. Still, to call Hapgood complicated would be an understatement. There will be reversals and ironies. There will be twins and identity confusions. There will be physics. DeLaurier makes sure that everything is illuminated. Rather too much so, in fact. Where are the dark corners, the mystery, the nail-biting tension?


Instead, I felt that Stoppard had dropped the ball. The actors here do reasonably well with the material. Christopher Patrick Mullen most effectively suggests the dark underbelly. David Pica does best with the moments of Monty Python-esque humor yes, Hapgood traffics in that, too.