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  • Writer's pictureAmrat

A review of ‘Who is No. 1?’

Updated: Jan 25

I was invited to watch Who is No. 1, a play about the making of the classic 1967 British television series, The Prisoner, created and starring Patrick McGoohan. It is considered a cult TV masterpiece and is apparently one of the most written-about TV series of all time (although I haven't researched it). Originally written to be a seven episode series, the play explores all the challenges encountered in making the series, which was eventually extended into a seventeen episode series. There was a large budget involved and much convincing of studio executives since it was a new concept at the time.

Image showing a theatre stage with two male actors wearing black blazers. The actor in the back has his hands folded while the actor at the front has a surprised expression on his face.

After speaking with a couple of friends who remember The Prisoner, my first thought was, why choose this television series for a play? It's quite an old show, so most people in the audience might find it inaccessible. It is important for real-life stories to have some familiarity so that people may relate to them. As someone who doesn't know anything about The Prisoner, I watched the very first episode and found it to be very bizarre, but given its time period I imagine it would have been groundbreaking (but a little boring for me). As the story begins, Patrick McGoohan, a British intelligence agent, wakes up in a mysterious coastal settlement called "the Village" after resigning from his highly sensitive position. Patrick's character is number 6 in "the Village," where people are known only by numbers. It is unlikely that anyone knows who number 1 is.

Two make actors portraying characters in the play Who is Number 1. One actor has a cigar in his hand and the other deep in thought.

I won't get too deep into the story, as I still do not completely understand it, but I was impressed with the acting. I found Murray Simon (Patrick McGoohan) and Ross Gurney-Randall (Lew Grade, Nigel Stock) to be very convincing both in accent and behavior. While the production is rather humble, it shouldn't put you off, as it actually allows you to focus on the characters and the story.

In portraying Patrick McGoohan, who at the time was being considered to play James Bond, Murray Simon did well with his accent and demeanor. Ross Gurney-Randall (Lew Grade, Nigel Stock), often with a cigar in hand, conveyed comic timing and dialogue pauses excellently. The costumes where very fitting and reminded my of a time I owned a blazer with white piping, although a little more effort would have been appreciated with changing costumes when the same actor was playing different roles.

Theatre stage showing two male actors, one sitting in a chair with a red and white striped top and the other with a red overall with fur lining writing something down in a small notepad.

I recommend giving this small production a shot, and keeping an open mind while enjoying the art of some good actors. This small and quiet venue in London is ideal for those looking for something a little less hectic. If you're around Shoreditch and fancy some theatre entertainment, this 90-minute show would be great.


The Courtyard Theatre

Bowling Green Walk, 40 Pitfield St, London N1 6EU Dates: Tuesday 23rd to Saturday 27th January 2024 Box Office: 0207 739 6868

Tickets: from £10


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