Single Spies

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Single Spies
Single Spies.jpg
Written by Alan Bennett
Date premiered 1988
Place premiered Lyttelton, National Theatre
Original language English
Genre Comedy/Drama

Single Spies is a 1988 stage play written by English playwright Alan Bennett. It consists of two acts, An Englishman Abroad and A Question of Attribution.

Stage play[edit]

An Englishman Abroad is based on the true story of a chance meeting of an actress, Coral Browne, with Guy Burgess, a member of the Cambridge spy ring who worked for the Soviet Union whilst with MI6.

A Question of Attribution is based on Anthony Blunt's role in the Cambridge Spy Ring and, as Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, personal art advisor to Queen Elizabeth II. It portrays his interrogation by MI5 officers, his work researching and restoring art, and his relationship with the Queen.

TV plays[edit]

An Englishman Abroad is a 1983 BBC television drama written by Alan Bennett and directed by John Schlesinger; Alan Bates starred as Guy Burgess whilst Browne starred as herself.

A Question of Attribution is a 1991 television play written by Alan Bennett and commissioned by the BBC. Directed by John Schlesinger, it starred James Fox as Anthony Blunt and Prunella Scales as Queen Elizabeth II.


In a televised documentary Caviar to the General broadcast on UK Channel 4 in 1990, shortly before her death, Coral Browne humorously described her reaction to seeing the stage version of An Englishman Abroad, particularly expressing her irritation at the costumes. She recalled that when she made the film version, the costume designer went to great lengths to find out what she wore at the time the story is set, but when she saw the stage costumes she exclaimed: "I nearly died. Fake fur and hats that wouldn't have come out of a grab bag at the Sally Army on Boxing Day. I was mortified. If the play ever comes to Broadway, I shall go armed with three lawyers and sue. I consider it a defamation".

Further reading[edit]

  • Bennett, Alan (1989). Single Spies: A Double Bill (First ed.). London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-14105-6.

See also[edit]

  • Cambridge Spies, a 2003 BBC TV play about the Cambridge Ring, and how Blunt came to be a Soviet agent.

External links[edit]