Pack of Lies

Pack of Lies is a 1983 play by English writer Hugh Whitemore, itself adapted from his Act of Betrayal, an episode of the BBC anthology series Play of the Month transmitted in 1971.[1][2]

Based on a true story, the plot centres on Bob and Barbara Jackson (in real life Bill and Ruth Search) and their teenage daughter Julie (in real life Gay Search, later a television reporter and newspaper journalist in the UK.) The Jacksons are friendly with their neighbours, Peter and Helen Kroger, until the couple are arrested and charged with espionage in 1961. It is revealed the Krogers actually are Morris and Lona Cohen, who during the 1950s and 1960s worked with fellow spy Gordon Lonsdale photographing and encoding as microdots various pieces of material which they then sent to their colleagues in Russia, as part of a Soviet espionage network known as the Portland Spy Ring that had penetrated Britain's Royal Navy.


The original West End production, starring Judi Dench and her husband, Michael Williams, as the Jacksons, opened on October 26, 1983 at the Lyric Theatre, where it ran for nearly a year.[3] Dench won the Laurence Olivier Award as Best Actress for her performance.[4]

After five previews, the Broadway production opened on February 7, 1985 at the Royale Theatre, where it ran for 120 performances. [5] The cast included Rosemary Harris, George N. Martin, and Tracy Pollan as the Jacksons, Dana Ivey and Colin Fox as the Cohens, and Patrick McGoohan as Stewart. Both Harris and McGoohan were nominated for a Drama Desk Award, with Harris winning for Outstanding Actress in a Play. Harris was also nominated for a Tony Award.[6]

In 1987, Whitemore wrote a draft of an adaptation of his play for an American television production on CBS.[7] He departed the production and the shooting script was written by Jeffrey Sweet who was billed as "creative consultant." Whitemore was unhappy with this version and exercised the right to have the script credited to a pseudonym, Ralph Gallup. Directed by Anthony Page, the film starred Ellen Burstyn, Alan Bates, Teri Garr, and Daniel Benzali.[8] It received three Emmy Award nominations, for Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special (Burstyn), and Outstanding Writing in a Miniseries or a Special.[9]


  1. Coveney, Michael (July 18, 2018). "Hugh Whitemore obituary" via
  2. "Act of Betrayal (1971)". BFI.
  3. "Production of Pack of Lies | Theatricalia".
  4. Brown, Mark (April 4, 2016). "Dame Judi Dench wins record eighth Olivier award" via
  5. "Pack of Lies – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB".
  6. Pack of Lies Playbill, retrieved April 3, 2018
  7. "Pack of Lies (1987)". BFI.
  8. O'Connor,John J. "Tv Weekend; Friends And Spies In 'A Pack Of Lies'" The New York Times, April 24, 1987
  9. "Pack of Lies Hallmark Hall of Fame". Television Academy.
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