dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Ciphers review at Everyman Theatre Cheltenham

This Out of Joint production of Dawn King’s new play sees her reunited with Blanche McIntyre, who directed the award-winning Foxfinder. Where that earlier play had a fable-like quality, an unsettling air of the dystopian, this is a more grounded affair, structured like a thriller.

Ciphers concerns the mysterious death of a secret agent and the attempts of the woman’s sister to uncover exactly how she died. King is interested in the fluidity of identity, especially when a life is lived undercover, and McIntyre’s production enhances this, with Grainne Keenan playing both of the sisters, the enigmatic security services operative, Justine, and the more forthright art gallery manager, Kerry.

The rest of the cast, tellingly, also take on double roles and the play intertwines Justine’s increasingly perilous professional life of secrets and lies with her adulterous affair with an artist. But though this is thematically rich ground, it feels like there are dramatic avenues left unexplored; the play’s fragmented structure is elegant and the contradictions in Justine’s character are potentially fascinating – the way in which her apparent averageness makes her so well suited to life as a double agent – yet the relationship between her and her lover, Kai, never entirely convinces, nor does a big narrative twist towards the end of the play. James Perkins’ set, with its shifting screens, allows the plot to flick seamlessly through time, switching from one plot strand to another, but there’s a curiously clinical feeling to some of the scenes which means it never quite grips as much as it might.

Production Information

Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, October 22-26, then touring until February 15

Author
Dawn King
Director
Blanche McIntyre
Producer
Out of Joint, Bush Theatre, Exeter Northcott
Cast
Grainne Keenan, Ronny Jhutti, Bruce Alexander, Shereen Martin
Running time
2hrs

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
^