The Secret Keeper – Curve, Leicester

Writer: Angela Clerkin

Director: Angela Clerkin and Lucy J Skilbeck

Reviewer: James Garrington

Confession, they say, is good for the soul. What happens, though, to those who hear the secrets confessed; and may there be consequences?

This is the basic premise of Angela Clerkin’s The Secret Keeper. The Doll’s House Maker has been unhappy for nine years, ever since his brother was murdered, and The Good Daughter wants to make him happy. She urges him to share his secrets, and as he does so a great burden is lifted from him. The Doll’s House Maker’s wife is next, and finds the same thing – so they invite the whole town to confide their darkest secrets to the child, with unintended consequences.

The play has a cast of four playing multiple roles, though each cast member has one role they focus on. Clerkin brings a child-like quality to her role as The Good Daughter, perched on top of a box gazing down on the town like a giant Buddha statue. The Doll’s House Maker and The Doll’s House Maker’s Wife (Niall Ashdown and Anne Odeke) perform as though in a children’s story, while The Chemist (Hazel Maycock) adds a nice touch of variety, with an interesting line in tinctures and a penchant for swearing.

The overall effect is of something that is struggling to work out where it is being pitched. The characters are largely two-dimensional, and the majority of the staging, script, and delivery is like a fairytale aimed at children. In fact, the adult influence consists mostly of gratuitous swearing and the nature of some of the secrets before it finally ventures into the area of privacy and whistleblowing touching on many areas – parents using their children to make money, desire for fame or notoriety, and the nature of confession and trust. Like the characters, none of these topics is really explored in depth although there is no shortage of time in which to do so – the play runs at just 90 minutes, yet it feels drawn-out and long-winded, like a short story with padding.

The basic premise of the play is good, but many of the possibilities have been missed. Any political satire is superficial, and the many opportunities for clever comedy seem to have been overlooked in favour of dressing some of the cast as ducks, gratuitous four-letter words and cheap laughs with some of the secrets that are shared. It’s all very earnest yet superficial – somewhat unsatisfying.

Runs until: 7 November 2017 | Image: Shelia Burnett

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