EDINBURGH | GLASGOW | ABERDEEN | INVERNESS | DUNDEE | PERTH

Agent of Influence: the Secret Life of Pamela More

at Underbelly Cowgate

* * - - -

Fashion writer and socialite turns wartime spy in 1930s comedy drama

Image of Agent of Influence: the Secret Life of Pamela More

Were this review based entirely upon the acting, it would have 5 bombs. Rebecca Dunn is a phenomenal storyteller, not only inviting us into the glamorous life of 1930s fashion writer, socialite stalker and wartime spy Lady Pamela More, but also embodying every single character from her stuffy, Nazi sympathising editor to the notorious Wallace Simpson. In the run up to the Second World War, More singlehandedly takes the audience from a bomb shelter, to royal scandals, fashion writing, affairs, the rise of Hitler, socialites, spying, parties, secret meetings, infertility, and feminism.

This immense span of settings and themes certainly is impressive for a one-woman show, but it is also the play’s downfall: there’s just too much. The aim of this show seems to be to show how all these factors are interlinked. Socialites become merged with major wartime decisions; sex influences politics and fashion journalism is conjoined with spying. But this aim is only partially achieved. The sheer volume of topics overwhelms each individual point, and mostly the themes appear disjointed. True, there are moments of clarity. For instance, the horror of child euthanasia and sterilisation slows the play for a few moments, emphasised by effectively chilling music. Similarly, the interspersed sound of air raid sirens serves as a poignant reminder of war. However, huge themes are brushed over. Female infertility and the social expectations of women in the 1930s are rushed and, as a result, they fail to muster any depth of exploration. Instead, they feel like superfluous add-ons.

The character of Lady Pamela More also feels shallow. She careers from obstinate political disinterest to an impassioned moral speech with minimal explanation. Moreover, the portrayal of a woman working in a male dominated industry – writing for The Times ­– reeks of Legally Blonde condescension. Do all professional women have to focus on pretty clothes and handsome men in order to be interesting? That said, she is an undeniably entertaining character. Dunn is particularly triumphant in a hilarious seduction scene.

While this performance does have elements of fun, the over stuffing of settings and themes renders it shallow and unfortunately forgettable.