In Russian culture, kompromat, short for “compromising material” (Russian: компрометирующий материал, translit. komprometiruyushchy material), is damaging information about a politician, a businessperson, or other public figure, used to create negative publicity, as well as for blackmail and extortion.
Inspired by the still-unsolved 2010 murder of GCHQ agent Gareth Williams Kompromat is an erotic thriller, looking at how a man who should have been more careful came to find himself dead and sealed in a sports bag.
Kompromat is seen through the eyes of a killer (Max Rinehart) in David Thame’s script. As he speaks to the audience about his work, his life as a sex worker/spy and how he came to find himself in this situation the venue (Brick Hall) had trains rumbling past, in another production this would a distraction but the trains seemed to vocalise the crashing of the killer’s mind; a mixed up man who finds himself questioning those paying him to do this and his own mortality once he commits the deed.
Guy Warren-Thomas, as the victim, is unashamedly based on Gareth Williams; gay and private he seems intimidated by London but embraces his anonymity, something the nature of his role requires. He is human and his loneliness will be the death of him, not his interest in strangers and ladies underwear. Warren-Thomas gives a vulnerable and moving performance and you sympathise with his quest for true love whilst keeping his guard up.
This is a strong production with Peter Darnley directing the sex scene between the killer and victim with sensitivity and the script has done its research in terms of how Williams could have died but I struggled with Rinehart’s character. This man was not that bright (the lack of explanation about the Victim’s role in the Secret Services was dismissed as the killer misunderstanding but I wonder if Thame struggled to find a plausible role), but self-assured and confident. On one hand, he was desperate to keep his lifestyle provided by the man who sent him but equally he had other forms of income, would he really resort to killing a cryptographer because he refuses to be blackmailed into sorting out a visa? The lack of a believable motive after such attention to detail was a real distraction from an interesting look at this unsolved crime.
A thoughtful production with warm performances that distracts its audience with missed marks.
https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/kompromat/ is on until 03 February