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Secret Theatre – Show 4

Published 13 February 2014

What’s it all about?

Staying true to the Lyric Hammersmith’s Artistic Director Sean Holmes’ speech launching the innovative season last year, this production is indeed about “provoking, horrifying, charming and astounding” the audience, so be prepared for a somewhat psychedelic ride as you take your seats in the dark studio with no clue as to what will unfold.

It would be a shame to dilute such a unique experience, so I won’t give away too much. However, it’s now commonly known this viciously blunt production is based on a Jacobean tragedy – albeit loosely – so you can safely expect gore, bloody revenge, deadly sexual desire and an alarmingly high body count at the end. Brought bang up to date, however, Hayley Squire’s dystopian and trippy vision is also a deft exploration of the power of celebrity and a cynical look at the political propaganda machine.

Who’s in it?

Leo Bill oozes charisma as a power hungry spin doctor with a filthily poetic tongue that even Malcolm Tucker would envy. As the story’s sacrificial lamb, Katherine Pearce is cast as a Marilyn Monroe figure battling against her Norma Jean roots and Nadia Albina’s sleazy filmmaker Monty’s demands that only beauty sells. Steven Webb is brilliantly manic as a terrified outcast, while Hammed Animashaun is hilarious and sinister in equal measures as the brutal head of state.

What should I look out for?

Ellen McDougall’s inspired direction that just keeps getting darker, reflected powerfully on Hyemi Shin’s minimalist all-black set lit in shadowy darkness. Oh and an X-Factor worthy performance of Al Green’s How Can You Mend A Broken Heart with the sob story to match.

Who was in the press night crowd?

Holmes and director McDougall were both in attendance, and I spotted musical theatre star Julie Atherton congratulating those involved in the Lyric Hammersmith’s newly refurbished bar afterwards. Most exciting of all, was the wide age range of people who had turned up to be complicit in the Lyric’s secret, with the small studio space keeping everyone from teenagers to pensioners rapt.

In a nutshell?

The temptation to say “Blank was blank in blankety blank” is great, but we’ll go with “The Lyric continues to shake things up with a very bloody Jacobean tragedy for a very 21st century audience” instead.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@Mrjonahrussell “Progression, precision and beautifully deft quality work. Extraordinary. You should go”

@Fionaporritt “Really enjoyed #secrettheatre at the @LyricHammer last night. I won’t tell you what happens… But I’ll tell you it’s worth a watch!”

Will I like it?

Secret Theatre was the love/hate theatrical event of 2013, which, for many, will be reason enough to go. I felt exhilarated when I was finally able to fill in all the missing gaps with the presentation of the programme as we left, and loved Squire’s earthy and witty script that reveled in guts and gore. If the unknown appeals and you enjoy theatre that will leave you battered and bruised, then this is for you.

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