Inside the basement of the US State Department, two young Foreign Officers Paige (Sarah Street) and Lee (Joy Sunday) are reluctantly assisting Special Envoy Sarah MacIntyre (Laura Jordan), recently returned from a top-secret and personal mission to a volatile foreign country. MacIntyre needs to prepare a report to convince the president, or the repercussions could mean death for many… if she’s right. But is she?
The exact region the situation is happening in is kept purposefully vague, the reason given being that the junior officials Paige and Lee aren’t cleared for the specifics of this operation, which is itself tied into an attempt by their superiors and other departments to ensure MacIntyre’s initiative fails. This haziness works, mostly, as it doesn’t tie the show down to a specific conflict, and the audience can therefore pick and choose between the many messy ones the US has been, and currently still is, involved in, a plurality of choice which underlines the show’s fundamental point about messy conflicts and not knowing who to trust.
However, the vagueness, coupled with the show’s recreation of key events through re-enactments by proxys, does blur slightly the show’s ultimate conclusion. Really one cannot be entirely sure any of the events depicted happened as described, and while a show about how murky everything in espionage really is would be valid in of itself, as a secondary point it puts an unnecessary question mark on every other point being made, including the primary ones.
However, this is more of a niggle than a major flaw, a slightly off harmony in a piece in which everything else is working 100%. Writer Helen Banner, producer Alley Scott and director Jess Chayes (and associate director Lila Rachel Becker) have created a tense and thrilling play, whose realism is well underlined by Carolyn Mraz’s scenic and Sophia Choi’s costume design. The cast is uniformly superb, establishing well and quickly very different characters in a work setting where individuality could quickly seem forced and always juggling well the personal stories with the greater ones.
Dutch Kills Theatre Company’s production of Intelligence is a tense and economical delve into the world of American spy craft and foreign policy which gets more done in a single room (thanks partly Jeannette Oi-Suk Yew’s and associate Alex DeNevers’ lighting, and Sinan Zafar’s, Asa Wember’s, and Asa Wember’s sound ably communicating the passage of time without ever letting up on the tension) than many globe-trotting adventures have. It’s a show full of intelli… okay, I’ll shut up now.
Intelligence plays until August 29th at Assembly Roxy, and tickets can be found at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/intelligence
Reviewer: Oliver Giggins
Reviewed: 18th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★