MAN OF 100 FACES | London, King’s Head Theatre

Rating: ★★★★★

Sir Paul Henry Dukes (1889 – 1967) was a British MI6 officer, and the only spy in British history to be knighted. Precious little is known about him, despite his illustrious career, and this is where Saul Boyer’s scholarly one-man show steps in. But make no mistake: the show is hilarious, and probably the best one-man play you will see at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Directed by Sam Rayner (the other half of Unleash the Llama), the hour-long show whips by in a veritable torrent of high energy and high camp. Though historical research comes across in every line, Boyer clearly has a sincere love for the true insanity of what Dukes encountered in Moscow: saucy femme fatales; British stiff-upper-lippers; and all manner of double and triple agents.

Boyer is an extraordinary performer: like the fluent Russian-speaker Dukes, Boyer is also a “man of a hundred faces”, and somehow conjures up fight scenes, love scenes, and scenes of betrayal, with just the flick of his head or a change of voice.

A word of warning: the intensely physical show, in a venue with no air-conditioning, gets very sweaty. It’s a good thing that Boyer so easily transports us to the dangerously frozen landscape of the Russian border. It’s also a bold move to put on a show that is so enamoured of the Russian culture, in the middle of the ongoing war in Ukraine. But in a way, that just makes the show even more timely.

Playing at the Edinburgh Fringe until 29 August 2022.

The Prickle - About transp