EFR - Reviews of Agent of Influence: The Secret Life of Pamela More

Agent of Influence: The Secret Life of Pamela More

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Kate Nicholson

at 10:37 on 11th Aug 2016

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Rebecca Dunn is a good storyteller; she conveys a convincing socialite who finds herself in a world of espionage. Beginning as a naïve fashion columnist, who ‘leaves politics to the politicians’, Dunn turns this character’s world inside out as she explains how Pamela More discovered the darker secrets behind World War II, spying on Edward VIII, Wallace Simpson and the Germans. Sounds quite good, doesn’t it? Yet, it could have been better.

More herself is excellently portrayed. Her detailed analysis of each individual’s clothing relates exactly to character, delivered with a scathing level of disdain which perfectly establishes the stereotypical socialite of the 1930's and 40's. But the plot itself is difficult to hold onto; too many characters and not enough faces.

Fluff Productions specialises in contemporary pieces fronted by an all-female cast, yet the piece didn’t quite do the concept justice. Whilst Dunn’s accents were impressive, ranging from drawling American to the colloquialisms of her maid, these changes are too subtle, fleeting. More’s interaction with her husband, lover and then her boss, all begin to merge into one. Several scenes are unclear without the help of later explanation. It is just one woman running around the stage without enough props.

The lighting deserves praise, the abruptly changing mood demonstrating the contrast between More’s fashionable and lighthearted world, to the darker side of the encroaching war. This divide quickly begins to close, as the performance progresses. Flickers of humour at the beginning are also extinguished by the end, intentionally helping create an atmosphere of tension. However, this alteration feels less intentional, and more as though Fluff productions could not settle on a genre: mockery of More’s aristocratic ignorance, or the dark shadow the war cast over the entire country. Perhaps it is supposed to show that even More was affected – instead, it feels out of sync.

In short, 'Agent of Influence' is interesting. However, there are several sparks missing, such as the presence of other actors. Also, there is a patronising edge to More's naivety, trying to survive in a patriarchal world. She is portrayed as one step behind the male figures; as though her focus never truly leaves the materialistic world women were believed to belong to in the 1940s. Possibly a reflection of the era, she does lead the tale as though her portrayal of the story is enough – however, such a difficult to follow plot undermines any strength that could be otherwise given to the female character.

A confused, but intimate piece revealing the fragmented life of the 1940s, 'Agent of Influence' could be great with a few tweaks.

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Thomas Jordan

at 12:39 on 11th Aug 2016

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The upper class English accent always has an alluring air of nostalgia and light amusement. Rebecca Dunn’s is excellent, so it’s a shame that the intrigue of her character’s ‘Secret Life’ doesn’t quite match up to the expectations that her atmospheric voice originally creates. The confused piece of one-woman spy writing centres on the collusions of British and German high society in the lead-up to World War Two. But any early promise soon descends into upper class mockery which is too clichéd (please, no more tea jokes…) to hide the numerous flaws in the writing.

Playing the socialite fashion writer Pamela More in a notably unimaginative set, Rebecca Dunn performs her role in an extremely professional fashion. Switching between narration, monologue and dual role dialogue with impressive fluidity, there are no major slip-ups to report in an almost constant one-hour stream of words. But it is this fluidity that begins to cause issues: as Miss More is picked up by MI5 to spy on Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII, the number of characters played by only Dunn herself rise to a point of frustrating confusion. The result is a storyline that often has the audience grasping to catch up or remember a previous name, before ultimately leaving them with an unsatisfactory conclusion.

More trying, however, is More’s confliction of character. Having originally set up an appearance of naïve simplicity that leans towards comedy, any following attempts to appear serious are unbelievable; her sudden confession of infertility under spotlight feels absurd, let alone irrelevant. Just as unnecessary are her infatuations and flirtations with her colleague George. Their ridiculous sex scene of solo disrobing is neither sexy nor funny, and as it is seemingly irrelevant from the plot, simply distracts from the difficulty of comprehending the actual storyline. This unhelpful discord between the trivial and the serious is the fundamental defect in the work; it is incredibly telling that even the context of World War Two and Hitler’s oppression of the Jews loses some of its familiar emotional pull.

It should be noted that this is a polished production. Dunn gives a strong showing, and the lighting is appropriately designed to create different scenes without being incredibly creative. In the end, however, the team fails to get to grips with the underlying failings in the writing, leaving the production floundering between an air of cheap Wildean wit and the grave seriousness of the political situation.

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