Action, explosions, promiscuous sex, and danger! All in a day’s work for a swinging 60s super-spy on Her Majesty’s secret service. But for the pencil pushers staffing Station J, it’s more like Tea, paperwork, technical difficulties…. and some more tea.
Station J is a small remote communications outpost of the British Secret Service located in Kingston, Jamaica. It’s 1962 and while Cuba and America are locked in a missile crisis, Jamaica is on the cusp of gaining its independence from the UK. But until then, three humble public servants have a job to do. If only any of their equipment worked!
As communications officer Terrance (Sam Browne) tinkers with the newly arrived ‘Monarch’ Radio transmitter, chief officer Charles Higginbotham (James Rosier) curses the owner of the Fish n’ Chip shop hogging up their phone lines. All the while, Margaret (Annabel Green) puts up with these two fools and makes multiple pots of tea.
But the day is shaken up when a coded message comes through with a warning of an impending arrival. Just then, a heroic Double-O agent (Fi Parrey) bursts into the office and things start to go sideways. Station J finds itself embroiled in conspiracies, murder and double, no, TRIPLE crosses! Hopefully, they can keep a stiff upper lip as a ticking clock counts down to a potential doomsday.
Written by Kieran Bullock and Jack Richardson, Station J: An MI6 Comedy is a love letter to British spy thrillers of all sorts. From Ian Fleming to John Le Carre, tales of espionage continue to thrill audiences long after the cold war has ended. But every James Bond needs someone to file his paperwork and this is where Station J comes to the rescue.
I’m a massive James Bond fan, so I was extremely interested in seeing what this play had to offer. Station J by its very nature references Bond’s earliest adventures in print and on screen. As you walk into the downstairs theatre at The Motley Bauhaus, you’re teleported into that hot (and moist) world. The song ‘Kingston Calypso (Three Blind Mice)’ playing may seem out of place, but to Bond fans it’s just the first of many references this play is packed with. Fitting also, as it can refer to our hapless trio of civil servants soon to be well out of their depth.
I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging I found Station J: An MI6 Comedy’s story as well. What begins as a fairly run of the mill day at the office is soon followed by more twists than you can shake an exploding pen at! Codes are being cracked, petty office politics are boiling over, and that’s all before the Double-O agent arrives. Or should I say ‘Double-X’ as who says this super-agent has to be a man? The plot builds and mysteries are unveiled to a (quite literally) explosive finale.
But of course, this is a comedy after all and when it comes to laughs, Station J: An MI6 comedy delivers. It is clearly inspired by the classic British comedies of yesteryear such as ‘Fawlty Towers’ and ‘Black Adder’. As such, it features a dry wit to its dialogue which had me rolling. I know that “a face like a mushroom omelette” has become one of my favourite new insults. Without the need of vulgarity, the play is a smart and well written satire of British bureaucracy and the spy game.
The cast of Station J: An MI6 Comedy are a spectacularly kooky collection of misfits. With the nerdy Terrance bumbling his way through the office played by Browne. Rosier plays Charles as the quintessential pipe smoking military gent turned office manager. While Margaret is the real brains behind the operation (more importantly, she makes the tea). But like the story itself, the characters ramp up in energy with the arrival of their unexpected guests. With the latecomer Admiral Planchett (Kieren Bullock) being a personal favourite for the ridiculous eccentricity of the old bean.
On the technical level, I loved how well the crew turned downstairs of Motley Bauhaus into a communications outpost for the night. Costume design was spot on as was the creative use of space in the building of Station J. And where would James Bond be without his signature gun barrel intro? Well, even that is recreated here with the play’s thrilling lighting design constantly surprising as the night went on.
Exciting, intriguing, and hysterical Station J: An MI6 Comedy is a jolly good show. It features the type of sly humour you don’t see many others attempt and even less manage to pull off, all wrapped up in a loving parody which doesn’t rely on the same tropes you’ve seen lampooned countless times before. Station J: An MI6 Comedy is a refreshing and witty adventure for Queen and Country!
Station J: An MI6 Comedy is currently playing at The Motley Bauhaus until September 30th.
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