DAWN King’s new play Ciphers, ending its tour at Salisbury, is an exploration of life in 21st century England, when surveillance and counter-intelligence are underpinned by rapidly developing technologies and espionage takes on a new importance.
This production, directed by Blanche McIntyre for Out of Joint, Bush Theatre and Exeter Northcott, is performed on a starkly versatile set by four actors playing eight roles. It tells the intricately interwoven story of sisters Justine and Kerry, the first a shy linguist who takes a job as a spy, her sister a flashy art gallery manager with a cocaine habit.
Keen to please, Justine becomes involved with first a suspected jihadist and then a Russian, all the time watched over by her icy boss, Sunita.
But then she is found dead in her flat, and the press first announces she is a suicidal spy, and then that someone else was in the flat with her as she took her overdose, downed with gin.
Kerry sets out to discover the truth behind her sister’s death, but truth is a flexible commodity in the world of espionage, where the obvious is ignored in a welter of lies and subterfuge.
With a sometimes terrifying soundtrack of white noise, devised by Gregory Clark, this fascinating and thought-provoking play is powerfully performed by Bruce Alexander, Ronny Jhutti, Grainne Keenan and Shereen Martin.
And it is on in Salisbury until Saturday 15th February, nightly at 7.45, with 2.45 matinees on Thursday and Saturday, and it is the perfect balance with the traditional thriller Gaslight, upstairs in the main house.