Having taken London and the Edinburgh Fringe by storm the Secret Theatre season has arrived in Oxford. Hosted by Oxford Playhouse, during this fortnight festival five different plays will take place in a variety of locations – each one offering a completely contrasting experience.
The opening show took place in the Burton Taylor Studio and was truly impressive and surprising.
The titles and authors are kept secret to free you to judge a play on its own merits and not on your preconceptions (though of course you can find out details if you really want to). But I was glad that I had chosen to engage with the project’s concept — not knowing what I was in for was uniquely exciting.
Show 6 is a smart new piece from the pen of Mark Ravenhill, whose previous hits such as Shopping and F*cking and Handbag have made him one of Britain’s leading playwrights.
It’s a tightly written and acted three-hander set in a nameless country ruled by a decadent oligarchy. A group of pampered youngsters become aware that when they were nippers these indulgent faux-parents stole them from their real (left-wing dissident) mums and dads after a brutal coup d’état. A story of revenge and recollection flows from this premise which is full of interesting twists and turns. Ravenhill’s mastery of dialogue is demanding of attention and constantly rewarding.
Set in the round, the simple and effective design by Hyemi Shin allows the three actors (Cara Horgan, Matti Houghton and Steven Webb) space to completely engage with the audience.
Though there is some doubling of roles director Caroline Steinbeis has ensured clarity throughout. With outstanding music and sound from Nick Powell and a potent lighting design from Lizzie Powell it all adds up to a cracking piece of theatre.
Secret Theatre: Show 6
Locations around Oxford
Until September 13
Tickets: 01865 305305