Devised and Produced by
Blast Theory and Hydrocracker
It is 1983 and I’m sitting my A Levels and dating a British soldier who turns out to be doing undercover surveillance around the Border in Northern Ireland. Fast forward to 2017 and my son is studying for his A Levels and I’m about to go undercover as part of a state surveillance operation in Manchester.
Friday afternoon and my Handler texts me a meeting point to rendezvous with the rest of my undercover team. At 7.45pm we gather and wait uncertainly for our instructions. Paranoia is already setting in as I assess the group and zero in on two individuals who might be participants like me but who might just be actors planted in the group.
The lines are blurring as another text sends us to a dingy location and our Handler suggests we make tea as an ice-breaker. People are moving around. A van door opens and I catch a glimpse of a hunched figure before it slams shut. We head upstairs to the briefing room and a very convincing Richard Hahlo rattles through the details of the covert operation. Images of POIs (Person of interest) are shown and we are bombarded with intelligence on them. My Handler is matter of fact as he calmly reminds us that we do whatever we feel necessary to extract intelligence. The underlying inference is WHATEVER it takes. I start to feel like I know what is expected of me and adrenaline kicks in.
Divided into small groups we develop our cover stories. Deciding who we are going to be starts to uncover lots of details about who we actually are and what we are comfortable sharing with strangers. The groups head off separately to infiltrate a social event full of right wing extremists. Drinks ordered at the bar and we enter the crowded venue and start to mix. It is hot and loud and difficult to tell who are actors, audience or just normal Friday night punters.