The Secret Keeper
The Secret Keeper at The Ovalhouse, London
“too nice for its own good”
The Good Daughter offers to keep her father’s secret - he has been so sad of late, it may cheer him up. He whispers it to her and feels joyous, the weight having been lifted. She has sworn to keep it secret, which she does. Unfortunately, everyone desires a go and soon the whole town is happy, except The Good Daughter - she is sadly aware of so much truth, even the identity of a murderer.
This is a gothic, adult fairy tale, creepy and silly. As an entertainment, it is brilliant. Mainly due to the amazing cast of four who pull the audience into their bizarre world and tell a story as dark as anything the Grimm Brothers could have conjured. Angela Clerkin (who co-wrote the piece with Lucy J Skilbeck) plays The Good Daughter, on high, in the attic, watching events unfold below her, as a young girl. The years drop away as she assumes an innocent and childish air. As if that’s not enough - she directed the play as well!
But I left feeling slightly cheated. There is nothing wrong with the performances: the other actors play all the additional parts - as well as the magpies, representing the secrets. Niall Ashdown, Hazel Maycock and Anne Odeke excel in the style and present a wacky assortment of town characters.
Simon Vincenzi’s design centres on the raised attic bedroom, with the surrounding town looking small and distant. It is simple and efficient, perfect for the UK tour.
Even though the production was developed at the National Theatre Studio, The Secret Keeper does not fulfil its promise. It is advertised as a ‘political fairy tale’, but it is very light on the politics. Even light on the darkness and the horror that it feels too timid to veer towards. There are songs, too, which take us into, perhaps, one genre too many - they being of variable quality. There was, in conclusion, little peril - the very emotion I craved to feel.
The Secret Keeper is too nice for its own good. Still a marvellous production, full of wit and charm, but lacking in bite.
Producers Ovalhouse and ClerkinWorks
Photography Sheila Burnett
Until Oct 21 Ovalhouse, London SE11
020 7582 7680 - ovalhouse.com
Oct 23 Stantonbury Theatre, Milton Keynes
01908 324466 - stantonburytheatre.co.uk
Oct 24-25 Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
024 7652 4524 - warwickartscentre.co.uk
Oct 27 Greenwich Theatre, London
020 8858 7755 - greenwichtheatre.org.uk
Oct 28 The North Wall, Oxford
01865 319450 - thenorthwall.com
Oct 31-Nov 4 Theatre Royal Plymouth (The Drum)
01752 267222 - theatreroyal.com
Nov 6-7 Curve, Leicester
0116 242 3595 - curveonline.co.uk
Nov 8 Little Theatre, Sheringham
01263 822347 - sheringhamlittletheatre.com
Nov 10 Corn Exchange, Newbury
0845 521 8218 - cornexchangenew.com