Pros: I won’t spill on where it is but the location is quite lovely. The company do well to create excitement around the piece.
Cons: Sadly, the piece comes across as under rehearsed, unsubtle and a little confused.
It’s hard to know how to review something entitled Secret Theatre, something that is deliberately shrouded in mystery, a show you aren’t even told the venue for until you book a ticket. It was thus with anticipation and little to no expectation of what was going to happen that I arrived at the secret location in East London. I won’t say too much but the venue was pretty picturesque and I was lucky enough to sneak in a cold beer in the balmy waterside air before the show.
The audience were ushered into a room off the main space, and we found ourselves in the middle of an exhibition. A poster just like others in the gallery proclaimed it to be Dominic Datchio’s Reflections on Reverie, there was art on the walls, a photographer milling about and an ‘installation’ in the centre of the room.
I feel I’m allowed to say this much, but as to the rest of the show, I’ll try to remain suitably vague. That shouldn’t be too difficult as I’m not entirely sure what went on. The whole thing was a bit of a blur, which suffered from over-acting, crowbarring in set pieces and mumbled dialogue. We watched as artist Dominic, who had taken to living in the exhibition, fell into various drug-induced blackouts.
The story was bitty with various twists thrown in that didn’t really make sense. There were some reveals that you could see coming a mile off: the ending especially was not so much signposted as pointed at with a giant red arrow whilst someone stage-whispered “over here!” with a wink and a nudge in the ribs. This might sound odd, but the most subtle acting and story (and my favourite parts of the show) came from trans prostitute Nadia, a six foot something wonder in heels.
The action felt a somewhat under-rehearsed, and in some cases it was hard to hear what the actors were saying. It didn’t help that the show tried to squeeze in several different techniques including physical theatre, poetry and some unconvincing audience engagement.
There was a massive missed opportunity with the show’s setting. For the most part, the play seemed to go on in spite of the gallery, not because of it. I would’ve honestly preferred to forfeit my seat so we could mill around like real private-view attendees and watch the action unfold in the middle of us. That way when the twists came, they would have felt dangerous and the audience would have felt implicated. As it was, the fact that it took place in a working gallery was mainly an annoyance, with noise pouring in from the bar whenever the door was opened, and often when it wasn’t.
When I looked on the company’s Facebook page this morning, I saw the news that the eight remaining shows had sold out. So maybe my friend, the audience members who never returned post-interval and I were missing something. So by all means, call up for returns, beg, borrow and steal to get a ticket. But once you find out the secret, don’t blame me if it was whispered too quietly, or it was one you already knew.
Devised by: Secret Theatre London
Box Office: N/A
Booking Link: http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/secrettheatrelondon/
Booking Until: Various dates until May 31st