REVIEW: Agent of Influence: The Secret Life of Pamela More (Drayton Arms Theatre) ★★★★★
It’s the mid 1930s, Edward VIII has unwillingly taken to the throne and England is in an uneasy time of rumours and political unrest. Amongst this clamour of uncertainty spreading throughout London is the elegantly dressed Lady Pamela More, socialite and fashionista extraordinaire. Largely disinterested by the topic of world affairs, she is content with writing her regular column on glamorous high society. But when MI5 recruit her as an undercover agent to observe the king and his controversial love interest, Wallis Simpson, she finds herself privy to life-changing information and circumstances.
What can I say? Everything about this just works. Rebecca Dunn is nothing short of superb, embodying everything that the script and direction intends for the character that is Pamela: dramatic, self-confident, headstrong…simply fabulous. A one-woman show, this kind of play requires an immediately absorbing script to hold attention in place of a large cast; indeed, Dunn made the need for a supporting cast obsolete, by faultlessly switching between accents, postures and facial expressions in order to represent her interactions with other characters (the focus and skill required for this is undeniably high). Her numerous witticisms and socio-cultural observations cannot help but stir a smile, so out of place against the deadly serious undercover work she is doing but so delightful: “I can’t STAND florals.”
I felt transported back to Nazi-occupied Germany, absorbing the tension that our protagonist felt whilst carrying out her mission. Jessica Beck‘s direction of the play presents a keen attention to detail in all aspects, from Dunn’s innovative use of the full stage, to Phil Hewitt‘s subtle but excellent use of lighting, music and accurate sound effects to establish her reality. Particularly absorbing was the character development we witness in Pamela from start to finish: first presented as a somewhat vacuous woman concerned more with parties than politics, she undergoes a heartfelt and inspiring transformation into a conscientious, patriotic individual, intent on serving her country by maintaining her ethical and moral standards.
Sarah Sigal has created an extremely well-balanced, intelligent script, making reference to historically accurate moments, quintessentially British trends and using language common to the era in order to paint a convincing picture of the time – whilst able to extract raucous laughter from the audience during every scene. The only thing disappointing about this production is that Pamela More is a character and not accessible in real life – she is exactly the kind of person you’d want to sit talking to for hours.
Reviewed by Laura Evans