The Secret Keeper
Reviewed – 17th October 2017
“there is a lack of urgency and of any real feeling of menace or darkness”
The Secret Keeper is billed as ‘a political fairytale for adults – with songs, magpies and a murderous gothic heart.’ I’m not sure it quite lives up to the description, but there are certainly things to like about Angela Clerkin’s script. Clerkin also takes the central role as The Good Daughter and co-directs with Lucy J Skilbeck.
The Good Daughter becomes a Secret Keeper for the inhabitants of the very odd town where she lives after her father confides his deepest secret to her and she feels wonderful afterwards. Soon everyone from the chemist to the vicar are flocking to give her their secrets. She swears ‘cross my heart and hope to die,’ never to tell. But what should she do when a murder is confessed?
Niall Ashdown, Hazel Maycock and Anne Odeke play all the other characters and portray some genuinely very funny moments. There are also some good songs and some weird business with magpies signifying secrets, presumably because of the line in the rhyme, ‘seven for a secret never to be told.’ Other people’s secrets can be a burden and the pressure to tell can be immense. In pushing their daughter to become the Secret Keeper, her parents are putting her into the centre of the very adult deceits and lies of the town. She hears things a child should not hear. The Good Daughter’s dilemma, to tell or not to tell, is perhaps reminiscent of the questions facing whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning.
But there is a lack of urgency and of any real feeling of menace or darkness. The set (Simon Vincenzi) is filled with haze, creating a mysterious atmosphere, but the story-telling is meandering and there are loose ends and lost opportunities – why is the father a doll’s house maker? Why is salt such an important commodity? The play feels too long, as though a short story has been stretched, and with some judicious editing it would work much better.
Reviewed by Reviewed by Katre
Photography by Sheila Burnett
THE SECRET KEEPER
is at Ovalhouse until 21st October