Agent of Influence** (Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh)

Posted: August 12, 2016 in Theatre

Agent of InfluenceThis review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

There seems no end to stories of heroism in World War II, but, despite initial appearances to the contrary, this is not an addition to the list. Sarah Sigal’s one hour monologue is an account given by Lady Pamela More, a socialite and fashion correspondent for The Times, of her recruitment to become a wartime spy on behalf of MI6.

Lady Pamela is the sort of woman who would brush aside the monumental in a quest to uncover the trivial. She is less concerned with the deeds of Fascist dictators than with the clothes that they wear and she believes Il Duce to be an opera singer. In early 1936, she is assigned to interview Mrs Wallis Simpson, whose involvement with the King was not known to the British public. Snootily, she nicknames the future Duchess of Windsor “the charwoman”, but they become acquaintances and she is assigned again in 1940, this time by MI6, to gather intelligence about the exiled Duke and Duchess, whose activities are causing concern to the Government.

Rebecca Dunn’s performance as Lady Pamela is a joy, suggesting an early prototype for a Patricia Routledge character. She is snobbish and ever so refined, but happily prepared to get down to her undies to be seduced by a handsome spy chief. The play’s humour derives from her anachronistic involvement in the grubby world of espionage.

Unfortunately, Sigal’s play promises much more than it delivers. Yes it is amusing, but there is none of the intrigue and suspense that we expect from a spy story. If Lady Pamela made any contribution to the war effort, it would appear to have been a minor one; she tells us that her discovery that the Duke of Windsor was plotting with Rudolf Hess to be reinstated as King in Nazi ruled Britain was already well known in Whitehall. So, no surprises for them and no surprises for us as this play fizzles out rather disappointingly.

Performance date: 11 August 2016


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