Friday, 27 September 2019

Wot I'm reading: More Israeli spies and spymasters

DOV ALFON: A Long Night in Paris

An Israeli tourist is ‘honey-trapped’ by a gorgeous blonde at Charles De Gaulle airport. His disap-pearance is investigated by the French police and by the Israeli Security Service when they realise that another Israeli on the same flight, who works for them, may have been the real target.

A Long Night in Paris is written in short chapters (some only one page), so it zips along at a cinematic pace. Jurisdictional spats in Paris and promotion tussles back in Tel Aviv slightly skew the story, but they demonstrate that catching spies is dirty work in more than one sense. There’s a nice cynical tone (the author used to be an intelligence officer): news reports are “the twilight zone in which legitimacy is created.” And a nice twist at the end brings an echo of the Ocean’s movies. Mr Alfon is clearly keen to see movie rights snapped up. Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon is still my favourite Israeli superspy, but Dov Alfon gets a ‘highly recommended’ from me.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Theatre at the cinema: comedy at its rawest


Raunchy gets redefined in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s show, which wowed Edinburgh Fringe audiences in 2013 and is now back in London and being relayed to a cinema near you. She developed the character into two not-to-be-missed TV series. And she scripted Killing Eve, which was more must-see television. (Onstage last night she reminded me quite a lot of Villanelle.)

Fleabag is not stand-up - well not exactly. It’s billed as a “one-woman play”, so perhaps the character is a performance rather than an autobiographical confession. Phoebe W-B sits on a chair and tells us Fleabag's recent life story, which is mostly about her busy hectic life (mostly with men, but some of it “solo” with online porn), her collapsing business (a guinea-pig themed cafe), relations with her business partner (dead, a suicide), her sister (estranged) and her mother (also dead). There are some sound effects and one voice-over (a job interview), but mostly she either talks about people or does impersonations of them. Her mimicking of a weasel-faced Tube pick-up is one of many high spots.

This is humour – this is life – at its rawest. A lot of it is rude (very) and funny (achingly), but there are hollows in Fleabag’s life which she doesn’t flinch at showing us: laughter some-times comes through tears. Waller-Bridge is at the cutting edge of contemporary comedy. If you missed it last night, cinemas plan a whole bunch of repeat showings. Do not miss it.

PS. If you're hoping to see the cute horny priest from Series Two of Phoebe's TV show, you're out of luck. BUT Andrew Scott will be appearing at a cinema near you this autumn in an NT Live (actually recorded) showing of Noel Coward's Present Laughter. And, of course, we'll be seeing Phoebe's contribution to the script of the new Bond movie next year. Will she bust his balls?