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Ciphers (Bristol)

Out of Joint's new spy thriller at the Tobacco Factory "falls well short of its promise".

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Acclaimed theatre company Out of Joint entice their audience with a tag line reminiscent of a classic espionage thriller: "…a world of secrets and subterfuge. How well can you ever know someone who lies for a living?"

With a new play that promises spies, double agents and an evening delving into the soul, writer Dawn King, designer James Perkins and director Blanche McIntyre aim to serve up a slick and action packed 90 minutes of theatre.

The set is ice cold and allows characters to interrogate and assess at will. With screens passing by clearing one scene and setting up the next, the design's aim is clearly more cinematic than theatrical, offering us the live version of a fade out and fade in. The first two or three times this happens, the design has its desired effect. The more it happens, however, the clunkier it becomes, which only stands to undermine the device.

The main offender, however, is the script itself. Devoid of both drama and heart, Ciphers fails to deliver a protagonist to care about and is close to being without purpose. With static direction and little dynamism, Out of Joint's latest falls well short of its promise.

- Shane Morgan