Oct 18

The Secret Keeper: theatre review by Paul Vates

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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!


Photograph courtesy of Sheila Burnett

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.


Photograph courtesy of Sheila Burnett

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.


Photograph courtesy of Sheila Burnett


The Secret Keeper is too nice for its own good. Still a marvellous production, full of wit and charm, but lacking in bite.



Paul Vates.



Producers           Ovalhouse and ClerkinWorks


Photography      Sheila Burnett


Twitter                 @ovalhouse


Tour dates:

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