Billed as a fairy-tale for adults, The Secret Keeper at Ovalhouse, isn’t as eighteen-plus as its marketing suggests. It is however, a fantastically told tale of deception and obligations. A young girl who is desperate to make her father happy, begs him to share his secret, and when he whispers it to her, it makes her feel sick, but he calls the great relief he experiences, a miracle.
Angela Clerkin, who also wrote and co-directed The Secret Keeper, plays the titular character and ‘Good Daughter’, who is essentially exploited by her parents. Forced to absorb all the towns-folks’ secrets, which take the form of magpies, magically lifting the burden from the secret holder and transferring it to the young girl.
Clerkin is joined on stage by Niall Ashdown, Hazel Maycock and Anne Odeke, who between them, play the entire town, and even the secrets themselves.
There are definitely political undertones, but unlike so many current productions, there’s not a single mention of Trump or Brexit. Instead, The Secret Keeper is far subtler, wrapping contentious issues in a metaphorical red riding hood cloak, and exploring them through a lens of fantasy.
Some of the secrets are comically mundane “I haven’t paid my TV License in years’, while others are shocking and disgusting. As it progresses we find ourselves asking if another person’s suffering, especially a child’s, should really be an unburdening, and who ultimately needs to take responsibility? Despite some of the darker motifs, it’s actually an incredibly funny play, with plenty of real belly laugh moments.
Every so often the cast break out in to song; while I suspect the tunes are intended as some sort of parody on the traditional Disney-esque fairy tale, they come across a little karaoke, distracting from the main narrative, and the play would work perfectly well without them.
Aside from these impromptu songs, there’s a soundtrack accompanying throughout; beautiful musical numbers, composed by Nick Powell, sprinkle a little magic on proceedings, and add an additional allurement to the whole thing. Lighting design, from Colin Grenfell, is also particularly impressive, with deep and rich colours slicing through the stage, and immersing us in the fairy tale world.
The Secret Keeper is delightfully bizarre and ridiculously entertaining, thanks to an engrossing storyline punctuated with humor, and first-rate production values. I know you are all desperate to know what the fathers secret was, but I’ve crossed my heart and couldn’t possibly say, you’ll have to visit The Secret Keeper at Ovalhouse to find out!