Noor Inayat Khan: The Forgotten Spy – a Strong Performance Suffers a Restricted Structure

By Ernest Kearney — Actress/Playwright Almanya Narula’s choice of subject matter shows a keen sense of what is both the dramatic and commercial. Noor Inayat Khan: The Forgotten Spy is a tale of espionage, taken from the annals of World War II, that involves the antithesis of the iconic James Bond.

Noor Inayat Khan was the daughter of an American mother and a father from a noble Mughal family of India who would bring Sufism to the West. Her family had settled in France in the 1920s where, as a young girl, she was educated at the Sorbonne and the Paris Conservatory.

Shortly after the German invasion of France at the commencement of Hitler’s domination of Europe, Noor and her family fled to London.

Due to her many years of residency in France and her fluency in the language, she soon found herself recruited by Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) and was sent behind enemy’s line to serve as the War’s first female wireless operator where she was given the responsibility of transmitting back to London any vital information which could help in defeating the Nazis.

Narula’s sensibilities are nicely attuned to this point, but her decision to focus the narrative on the final half hour of Khan’s life following her capture and arrest by the Gestapo has confined and constricted the inherent impact of her drama to a timetable she is unable to accommodate successfully.

Narula wants to show us the tale of a young woman discovering her inward courage in facing the crippling terror of torture and death at the hands of her Nazis captors. Structurally, and speaking of the bare bones, this through-line requires a dramatic triptych: nadir, ascent, resurrection. But the boundaries she has selected deny Narula the arena needed to achieve this transition. Hence, her Noor seems defiant at the outset and her nadir seemingly not so low, resulting in casting her resurrection as negligible.

Narula has a superb sense of the character, and finds intriguing facets to facilitate her arc development, but the acknowledgement of Mehr Kaur as co-director and Meghna Chakraborty as co-producer implies to me, though I may be wrong, that Narula has allowed herself an acquiescent and malleable environment to work in.

This is generally a mistake. Challenge and contrast are the forges that benefits creativity.


Silver Medal (via The TVolution)

Playing at the Hollywood Fringe 2022


Jun 3rd 7p PST
Jun 11th 7p PST
Jun 19 4:30p PST
Jun 24th 6p PST
June 26th 2p PST


The Broadwater Black Box Theatre
6322 Santa Monica Blvd.


Tickets and Information

Admission: Free

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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

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