Mickey Mouse is Dead


TIME: 1952, the year after the Rosenberg trial, bang in the middle of the Cold War. Place: the Disney Studios, California. But it's not all about living happily ever after: in the era of McCarthyism, all-American Walt is a spy for the FBI. Harris and Finch, two of his scriptwriters, were plotting to unionise but are now afraid that Walt's got wind of their plans. Moreover, Walt's been invited to name names. Can Grace, Finch's rich, blonde girlfriend, a new employee at the studios, find out from Walt how much he knows before it's too late? And when things don't quite go according to plan, how dispensable is Grace - and, for that matter, Harris and Finch?

This subtle, well-plotted script by Justin Sherin, direct from off-Broadway, has been produced by Spankin' Yanks. They are previous Fringe First winners, and it shows.

It is a pleasure to discover such a slick, professional production in a Portakabin in a weed-strewn courtyard behind the Pleasance. The bleak office set (blinds and typewriters and telephones) and the costumes the characters wear (seamed stockings, New Look skirts, braces, stiff-collared shirts) are impeccably 1950s. Sugary Disney music highlights the drama of the tangled office politics - and yes, this play does give a whole new meaning to the phrase "office politics". There are some great one-liners ("Friends stab you in the front") but what is most striking is the assurance of this production and the superlative control of the actors. There is a real intensity, and the intimacy of the venue adds to the growing claustrophobia from which we are granted no release.

Though none of their characters is particularly likeable, Marnye Young, Anthony Manna and James Lloyd Reynolds make them absolutely compelling. But the most fascinating character of all, Walt himself, we never see - and it is part of the genius of the piece that he remains the one mystery in an environment in which there is too much truth - and in which the truth harms.

• Until 28 August. Today 3.15pm

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