I spy the secret lives of intelligence officers in premiere of new thriller
A young woman is found dead. Her sister sets out to find out what happened, and stumbles into a world of secrets and subterfuge that makes her question who Justine really was. How well can you ever know someone who lies for a living?
This is the story of a British intelligence officer in new play Ciphers, a co-production between Out of Joint, The Bush Theatre and Exeter Northcott where it will premiere next week.
"It's odd to say it was inspired," says playwright Dawn King, "but I was thinking about Gareth Williams – the 'spy in the bag' story. It really stuck with me. So sad but really fascinating and gripping. If you had a relative working for the Secret Service, you might never really find out what happened.
"I have watched a lot of that kind of drama and I'm aware that this is not like Spooks. This is a play and it works like a spy thriller; it has that form.
"Everybody has got a private self and a spy has a very extreme private self. They have more than one version of themselves. I was really interested in the idea. Can you really get close to anyone?
"There was also the story of Mark Kennedy – the policeman who was living undercover for years, even having sexual relationships with women."
Dawn has been working with the company – which includes A Touch of Frost's Bruce Alexander – during rehearsals, a process she loves.
"Rehearsals are great! I spent a lot of time on my own, writing, so it's a case of... people! Hooray!"
Dawn, who comes from Stroud, moved to London in 2001 and, a keen fan of the theatre, channelled her creative need into writing after a workshop at the Soho Theatre – and it's finally paying off. "I had a part-time job in a cinema until January this year and I got to the point, after 12 years, where I didn't have to have a part-time job."
Dawn's debut play Foxfinder received rave reviews. Like Ciphers, it's directed by Blanche McIntyre who was named Most Promising Newcomer at the Critics' Circle Awards last year.
"It's a totally wonderful thing working with Blanche again. I'm really pleased. I know my play is safe in her hands and it's nice when you know someone... and she has a massively powerful brain! And the cast is amazing as well. The whole team is brilliant."
Dawn says that writing full-time means an outlet for "all the different stories in my head" but still finds herself surprised to be doing it. The fruits of her labours can be seen in Exeter next week, where she will be on the opening night.
Ciphers is at the Exeter Northcott from October 16-19.