Stellan Starsgard, Hayley Atwell, Zoe Wanamaker, Stephen Fry in The Man. Picture from Sky Arts.

L.S. Media Rating ****

Cast: Stephen Fry, Zoe Wanamaker, Stellan Starsgard, Hayley Atwell, Tony Cosh.

The second play written for the Sky Arts series of plays by Sandi Toksvig, the engaging The Man was quite possibly one of the strangest that the series had produced so far and yet also one of the most compelling for viewers to get their thoughts around.

The Man had an array of talent within the short half hour programme that it could have put the other plays to absolute shame in its sharp crisp feel.  The use of Stephen Fry, showing exactly why he is considered one of the finest brains in Britain and the perfect casting of Captain America star Hayley Atwell as the unashamed naive novice in a shadowy group of intellectuals that would have every conspiracy collector reaching for their social media accounts and writing, “See I told you, they admitted via the television.”

The beauty of this particular play, compared to the unfortunate drab affair by Ms. Toksvig earlier in the series was the sheer joy that masked the subject matter that came through in the writing for the four major actors on the screen. Not only was the writing a joy to behold but it reflected well in the apparent feel that the actors gave in performing it. Zoe Wanamaker, who simply excels in virtually everything she touches, simply shone as one of the four people who decide policy, lives and the fate of certain countries over a game of cards but she was also unnerving enough to make Stellan Starsgard appear like a kinder school teacher armed with disappointing news to a four year olds parents that their young charge is only achieving basic skills.

The real star of this particular half hour was undoubtedly Hayley Atwell. The young actor has had a meteoric rise of late, with her part in the Marvel Comic books as the excellent Peggy Carter assuring her a gigantic fan base. She has come a long way since recording for the Doctor Who/ Big Finish collection of Paul McGann stories and the remake of the iconic 1960’s television programme, The Prisoner. As her character starts to understand the enormity of what is before her and who exactly she is dealing with, her composure and reasoning ebbs and flows as the penny finally drops of who exactly is being used.

Although not quite in the same league as The Snipist for example, The Man was compelling television and a joy to watch.

Ian D. Hall