The second show about the Profumo scandal to open in as many weeks is witty, gritty, and a lot clearer than its musical counterpart, A Model Girl.
Its’ the swinging sixties and Britain is on the verge of a sexual and political revolution. Based on Christine Keeler’s autobiography, Gill Adams’ play tells how the topless model and dancer’s simultaneous affairs with the Secretary of State for War John Profumo and Soviet intelligence officer and assistant naval attaché, Eugene Ivanov, caused Profumo to resign and brought about the downfall of the Macmillan government.
Paul Nicholas’ direction is well-paced in Act 1, and the story comes across clearly in Adams’ script. The cast, too, look like their real-life namesakes, and good use is made of projected photographs of people and places involved in the story on Michael Ozouf’s cleverly compact set. A soundtrack of sixties pop hits – which almost gives the feeling of a particularly scandalous episode of Heartbeat - sets the tone (courtesy of sound operator Philip Jones) and provides an enjoyable soundscape to the play.
Laurie Hagen as model Doris particularly stands out; she is quirky and endearing, bringing an air of innocent charm to the role. Patrick Ross as Ivanov is suitably macho and brooding, while Johnnie Lyne-Pirkis is a convincing Profumo. Brian Cowan makes an interestingly blasé Stephen Ward, the osteopath to the elite who took Christine under his wing and into his home. His casual attitudes towards sex and politics make him seem almost as misguided as his young protégé.
The sub-plot about Lucky and Johnnie, two black men vying for Christine’s attentions, is well acted by Ewan David Alman (who plays both roles) and is given substance in Adams’ play, which suggests the affair would not have been brought to public attention if it weren’t for the relationships between Christine and these two men.
In the title role, Alice Coulthard – making her professional stage debut - captures the blend of youth and charm in the not-so innocent model. She occasionally fails to be fully believable, but her understated performance in the small venue comes across well.
Act 2 loses momentum, though, and perhaps it would have been better to cut several later scenes and make Keeler a one-act play.