BY ALICE KLUGHERZ
“SOUNDWAVES: The Passion of Noor Inayat Khan” covers a lot of historical territory. Born into a spiritual and musical family, Noor Inayat Khan was known as the “spy who could not lie”. Noor worked for the British government as an SOE (Special Operations Executive) during World War two. She was sent to France to help the resistance during the Nazi occupation under the code name of Madeleine. As an SOE agent, she became the first female radio operator to be sent from Britain into occupied France. She was born in Russia in 1914 to a spiritual and musical family. Her father, Inayat Khan, was famous both as a musician and Muslim Sufi mystic. He came to the west as a musician and went on to teach Universal Sufism. Noor’s mother was an American.
The actress, Soraya Broukhim, is as close as we’ll come to the real Noor Inayat Khan. I felt like I was getting the rare privilege of getting to know this incredible woman through Ms Broukhim and the rest of the cast. She not only looks like the pictures of Noor Inayat Khan, she portrays the passion and innocence that makes us hang on her every word.
The play is one part Merchant Ivory and three parts docu-drama – only pared down and more gutsy. The music, created and performed by Maitreya and Neil Padukone, adds to the cinema-like quality and reminds me of the main character’s eastern and spiritual roots.
When you walk into the theatre you see a man pacing and thinking – the actor Anthony Crane playing Leo Marks is on stage as we are settling in our seats. His presence is our preview and when the play starts, he becomes our guide.
He’s passionate about the story because he was part of it, and he keeps us on track no matter how much or little history we bring to the theatre.The play moves through Kahn’s life with economy and detail. We see her first interview with a British official where she is asked why (as an Indian woman) she would like to work for the British Crown. She explains that she expects that soon there will be nothing left (in the world) but England.
Magic weaves in and out of the story. But it’s not magic realism it’s a relationship to art and its power. We get the first glimpse of its tangibility when we hear Noor’s father, Inayat Khan, tell his daughter about how all life is like music. “The universe” he tells her, “is made of sound, there is nothing solid, all of it is vibrating. We are the receivers if we allow ourselves to be finely tuned.” She uses her father’s ideas in a synergistic mix with her training in music and spirituality to become a world class peaceful spy. I imagined that seeing matter as permeable helped her evade the Nazis as long as she did.
Before she joins the resistance she writes children’s stories. During the early part of the play a section of her tale “The Monkey-Bridge” is told. And the image of a selfless monkey chief offering a mango appears with great poignancy throughout the play.
Leo Marks (our guide) recognizes that her gifts as a coder (to send messages as a spy) outweigh her inability to lie or ever use violence. Part of the theme that weaves in and out of this tale is how weaknesses can be combined with strength and passion to create tangible magic. Her spirit, creativity and spunk kept her out of the Nazis’ clutches long enough that her brave work made a difference.
This is a riveting story made smart and accessible with a wonderful script, by Joe Martin, creative team and cast. The direction by Adrian Roman is wonderful. All of the actors reflect real people with full lives. For a brief time we get to meet Noor Inayat Khan and she renews our faith that maybe our weaknesses mixed with our strengths can stand up to the hard part of our lives. In this time, where everyone knows everything, we could use a little magic and Noor Inayat Khan shows us that the world can be managed peacefully.
SOUNDWAVES: The Passion of Noor Inayat Kahn
Written by Joe Martin, Directed by Adrian Roman, Stage Manager / Lighting Designer Sarah Weeks, Music Maitreya & Neil Padukone, Production Manager/assistant Director Leonie Ettinger, Movement Director/Mask Maker Catherine Gasta, Costume Designer Rob Bursztyn, Production Assistant Maxine Mattana, Assistant Stage Manager Eleanor Weeks
Cast: Maya Helena De Bresser – Renee Garry, Hidayat Inayat Khan, Host, Prisoner 3; Soaya Broukhim- Noor Inayat Khan; Anthony crane – Leo Marks;
Ana Grosse – Amina Begum, Marguerite Garry, Prisoner 2; Matthew Lewis – Maurice Buckmaster; Arooj Majid – Hazrat Inayat Khan, Monkey King; Anna Marie Sell – Raymond Prenat, SOE Instructor, Prisoner 1; Kesav Wable – Vilayat Inayat Khan, Pierre Cartout; Perri Yaniv – Goldberg, Betrand, Camp Guard in Dachau; Zenon Zelenicuch – Ernest Vogt, Henri Garry, Valentin
VENUE #2: CSV Flamboyan Theatre 107 Suffolk St FRI 23 @ 9:00 SUN 25 @ 3:00