Best Kept Secrets

Mon 12th – Sat 17th August 2013

reviews

Victoria Ibbett

at 03:12 on 15th Aug 2013

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A woman in a trench coat is reading the Sunday telegraph on a park bench. So far so fine. Unfortunately ‘Best Kept Secrets’, an ‘unstoppable show’ treating the blundering adventures of a group of spies, takes a sharp downturn from this initial inoffensive tableaux. Although the cast are enthusiastic, the script is poor, the pace slack and the plot near non-existent.

The story loosely revolves around a much-coveted briefcase, the contents of which are themselves contested. Unfortunately, the plot was impossibly tangled and dominated by apparently inconsequential episodes that neither succeeded in furthering the plot nor were amusing. Built upon such unsound foundations, the script couldn’t be good, but in places it surpassed even my pessimism; it was peppered with poor jokes and erratic developments.

To the credit of the cast, the acting was certainly enthusiastic. Georgina Maynard and Flora Zajikek put their energetic all into their various parts, and Rob Dewar did a credible job of playing a couple of equally bumbling characters.

However, despite the enthusiasm of the cast, the performance was let down by the sheer iniquity of the cast member to character ratio; there were three actors performing six parts. This would have been acceptable had there been less or more effort put into the characterisation. Unfortunately, the cast were costumed enough to indicate effort, but there was little if no change of costume between character swaps; an anxious bystander became a polished spy with the simple addition of a pair of sunglasses and a plummy accent, but their distinctive coat remained. This proved a distraction as I found myself wondering whether it was the actor that had shed his character for another, or if I was witnessing a complicated series of impersonations that belonged within the narrative itself.

It is with reservations that I rescue this performance from the single star. However, whilst this show may be irreparably flawed, the actors do demonstrate genuine promise, not least in their ability to engage so enthusiastically with such arid material. I certainly do not recommend this show, especially not for the six pound asking price. But I do recommend its cast, in anything but this.

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Ben Williams

at 04:30 on 15th Aug 2013

1agrees

0disagrees

Phrop Theatre’s production of ‘Best Kept Secrets' presented a comical plot which essentially saw six characters move a briefcase around the stage through a series of absurdly connected events. Unfortunately it is nowhere near as exciting as it sounds.

Whilst I can understand that it is often hard to create a deep sense of character in a one-hour production, the characters here were particularly weak, especially given that each performer had the opportunity to play two different roles. Yet, the key underlying problem was simply poor writing. The plot was trying far too hard to be original, so much so that it appeared bizarre and unrelatable.

Much of the comedic content also fell short of the mark. Many lines simply came too quickly for the audience to be able to comprehend everything that was said and keep up with the often underwhelming jokes. In fact, it was this factor which chiefly caused the unhealthy lack of audience laughter and meant that the play never really got off the ground.

There was also a rather shabby edge to the production and certainly not in a positive way. Last minute props, limited and ineffective costume changes and clearly handmade signs covered in Sellotape, all provided a constant reminder that this was a student production and distracted greatly from the content itself. Indeed, many of these props served no real dramatic or comic function and simply appeared lazy and unprofessional.

The play’s only significant redeeming feature was the energy onstage, which made the piece watchable even if the script left you cringing. Other factors such as the interesting use of voiceover, very slick scene changes and clever ‘freeze-frames’ were also present, but they were severely undermined by the negative factors.

It would be too harsh to say that ‘Best Kept Secrets’ should remain just that: a secret never to be told. However, it is a far cry from being recommended anytime soon. Ultimately, the recurring theme that struck me was that the play was trying too hard in some areas and too little in others, to the point that it is forced and increasingly disappointing.

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