Writer: Angela Clerkin
Directors: Angela Clerkin and Lucy J Skillbeck
Reviewer: Joan Phillips
The Secret Keeper is marketed is a political fairy tale for adults with a gothic heart, which all sounds very promising. But this is the first misleading disappointment in this bizarre play.
The ‘secret keeper’ in this story is the daughter of the village doll’s house maker. She invites first her father, then her mother to confide their secrets to her. Her parents instantly feel the delight of being relieved of their guilt. So enthused, they invite the rest of the village to visit their daughter to ease their relief too.
Hints of murder, infidelity, corruption, and abuse are scattered around the first half of this short play. The parents bask in the importance that the association with their daughter gives them. However, the daughter starts to feel the burden of carrying the combined guilt of the entire community.
An intriguing premise but it is all rather thrown away as the play descends into an infantile and repetitive meander through the various confessions. In the first half, village members visit the girl and whisper their secrets one after the other. It isn’t clear what they are saying so it is all rather tedious and pointlessly repetitive. Occasionally, the story is interrupted with shockingly bad songs.
The set is inexplicable in its shortcomings. Much of the action takes place with the daughter, played by Clerkin, sitting on the edge of a large, high-sided box open, only at the top. At the beginning, she points down to the various characters in the village picking them out one by one. But we can’t see anything inside this high-sided box, so it is all rather a retrograde approach. Each act is introduced by a weirdly macabre dismembered doll.
It isn’t really clear what the writer wants for this play. Should it be a morality tale for children? Or a metaphor for the adult world about the responsibilities of keeping secrets? Or perhaps the value of telling the truth? Or, is it about the political, social, emotional or personal costs of each?
All this could be partially forgiven if the second half had managed to build some sense out of the introductions in the first. But it is a squandered opportunity. It all starts to feel like a primary school project made up on the spot. When Clerkin sits on top of her box in a silver cape and giant ears you just know it can’t get any worse.
Runs until Saturday 4 November 2017 | Image: Sheila Burnett