An Englishman Abroad

by Alan Bennett

An Englishman Abroad had 2 performances almost 11 years ago (between the 8th of October 2010 and the 23rd of October 2010) at Riverside Arts Centre and Rhoda McGaw Theatre

An Englishman Abroad is based on actress Coral Browne's 1958 visit to Moscow with the Royal Shakespeare Company, where she met the exiled English spy, Guy Burgess. In writing the play Bennett was able to rely on Burgess' letters to Browne, as well as 'her original notes on his measurements and even his cheque, uncashed, for ?6'. The action centres on Browne's visit with Burgess in his dingy, seedy, chaotic Moscow flat, with a few scenes following Browne on the London errands she runs for Burgess to buy him a new suit and some pyjamas. With its sharp insightful dialogue, 'An Englishman Abroad' is a witty and touching short play. Very well crafted, it makes its points easily and with just the right understatement. In the play it is suggested that Burgess was a spy because he wanted a place where he was alone and that having a secret supplied this.

The play must have a strong sense of period and place. There should be an almost tangible sense of yearning for 'the old country'. It should make us Smile ~ but also touch us.

For details of characters, see 'Cast' section below.

Full details of Woking Festival can be found on the festival website


Guy Burgess - David Webb

An ex-public school, Cambridge-educated man with a somewhat camp, louche, manner. Crumpled, He is an ill-kempt man always playing the fool - not only for his own amusement and love of exhibitionism, but with the object of keeping everyone in the dark as to his own views and intentions. In the play Burgess says ”I lack what the English call character, by that they mean the power to refrain’ Burgess is a sad, lonely man in his Moscow exile - all too well aware of his sad fate, but managing to make do. Coral Browne offers some connection with England, and he eagerly grasps for it. His flailing questions about old acquaintances from a lost time and world suggest he doesn’t even want to know too much about the present; it is the England he left he mourns for, and which he tries vaguely to keep alive in his sad little exile.


Coral Browne - Frankie Godliman

A striking woman; tall and elegant with a powerful actress’s voice which only betrays her Australian childhood when she loses her temper. She has some very witty lines about Russia and its people. She hasn’t much interest in politics and can’t muster much morality but does feel sorry for Burgess. She manages to prick people's pomposity with her waspish style of delivery and brittle no-nonsense approach. Much of the humour in the play falls from her witty ripostes and acid delivery.

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Tolya - Jakub Bednar

A young Russian and Burgess’s “friend” probably supplied by his masters. A small but vital cameo role, he speaks some Russian and is required to sing Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes” accompanying himself and Burgess on the balalaika.

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Tailor - Bill Newman

A cameo part; he is very formal and an old school Englishman

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Shop Assistant - Paul Foster

Very condescending, disdainful and disapproving. Looks down his nose at Browne’s attempts to buy some pyjamas for Guy Burgess. A small but vital part.


Director - Judith Dolley

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Stage Manager - Liz Thomas

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Lighting - Bill Payne


Sound - Ian Santry


Set Design and Construction - John Godliman

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Continuity - Linda Russell

Eileen Harper Memorial Trophy for Runners Up Woking Drama Festival - 2010
Best Director Judith Dolley Woking Drama Festival - 2010
Guildbury Shield for Technical Excellence Woking Drama Festival - 2010
Pauline Brown Award for Best Backstage Management Woking Drama Festival - 2010
Spelthorne Cup for Overall Best of Festival Spelthorne & Runnymede Drama Festival - 2010
Best Actress Frankie Godliman Spelthorne & Runnymede Drama Festival - 2010
Stage Presentation Award Spelthorne & Runnymede Drama Festival - 2010