17: The Spook

7 Apr

Melissa Reeves’ play about Australia’s communism paranoia in the 1970s is a tragic and cleverly constructed piece. The Spook is about a young man, Martin, who is persuaded to become a spy and infiltrate the Bendigo branch of the Communist Party.

book on desk

Reeves based The Spook on an article she read about Phil Geri, a Bendigo man who spied for ASIO for 23 years after being asked at 19 if he wanted to serve his country.

While Reeves has written a work of fiction, its basis belongs in fact. The mundane and banal meetings that Martin reports on so religiously and in such detail are funny because of how little happens in them and how much Martin reads into them.

Reading the play, I felt that Alex, the agent who recruits Martin, was a bit too slimy. It was hard to believe anyone would fall for his lines. The tragedy in the play is that lovely people are made out to be monsters because of their politics. Martin betrays his only friends because the friendship has been a deception on his part from the start. He gives up everything in his life for a paranoid department that never officially acknowledges his existence.

MARTIN: It’s just I can’t seem to lie … I can’t pretend …
ALEX: You’ll get better at it.
MARTIN: And they just seem so … normal. I mean, some of them, they’re Greek and all that, but –
ALEX: Don’t let them fool you, Martin. These people are traitors to their country.

The Spook reads as if it’s another world away from our own, but I imagine it’s far closer than we like to think. The only thing that’s changed is that it’s not communists we’re spying on these days.

Publisher: Currency Press

Cast: 4M, 3F

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