Theatre review: Screaming Secrets, Tristan Bates Theatre

A piercing family drama seen through the eye of a philosopher’s lens

Jack Klaff as Alessandro, Ilaria Ambrogi as Gina and Jack Gordon as Antonio in Screaming Secrets.

Jack Klaff as Alessandro, Ilaria Ambrogi as Gina and Jack Gordon as Antonio in Screaming Secrets.

Family dramas are the cornerstone of theatre. Nothing packs a dramatic punch like a group of mismatched relatives coming together for an occasion. You know it’s never going to end with fond farewells and promises to share the vol-au-vont recipe.

Screaming Secrets’ set piece is Antonio’s birthday party where long held family tensions are unleashed in a cacophony of bitterness and tragedy. The mid-70s setting further magnifies the Pinter associations, although this birthday party doesn’t need strangers to inject the menace.

Twisting between melancholy, comic and downright tragic, the show interweaves philosophical threads that help pull together the play’s moral compass.

Philosopher Antonio (Jack Gordon) is grappling with his masterpiece and the meaning of life, while his frustrated writer girlfriend Monika (Triana Terry) clings to him, desperate for him to deal with real life and marry her.

Their row is diffused by the first party guest – Antonio’s “only friend” and his doctor, Simon (played with a compelling poise by Ben Warwick), who is half way through the first bottle of champagne when Antonio’s father and sister arrive, fresh off a turbulent flight from Italy. Their arrival signals the beginning of a bumpy ride for everyone.

We know before Alessandro’s arrival that his is being sued by his employees, many now dying due to diseases caused from working as his factory. Alessandro (Jack Klaff) wants to by-pass this problem and hand the family business to Antonio, who is reluctant yet conflicted.

But this problem is soon dwarfed by another, larger, sadder discovery when Antonio discovers his hypochondria might not be in his head after all.

Writer Alexander Matthews, himself also a philosopher, delves into life’s bigger questions: how are our morals altered by the shadow of death? And what does it mean to protect our loved ones? Should we be altruistic to the point where we actually hurt others?

Screaming Secrets is a well-paced drama, with energy and verve that perhaps doesn’t give you the big takeaway it promises to deliver, but will get you musing on the injustice – as well as the meaning – of life.

Screaming Secrets | Until 24 February 2018 | Tristan Bates Theatre WC2H

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Theatre review: Double Infemnity, Vaults Festival

A one-woman show that gives a feminist interpretation of this classic genre doesn’t ooze with quite enough noir.

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Double Infemnity, a nice twist on the title of the 1940s-crime noir film Double Indemnity, is a one woman play, starring Katrina Foster as Effie-Lou, a former sex worker forced to turn detective when her PI friend Joe disappears.

Ellie-Lou’s hunt for Joe draws her deep into a world of murder, sex trafficking, and dodgy beehive wigs.

Double Infemnity bills itself as a stylish and gender-flipped crime noir and is the product of collaboration between two female theatre companies, Little but Fierce, and Paperclip Theatre. It’s a one woman play that turns the smokey, masculine world of crime noir into a feminist fight for justice.

Foster doubles, when needed to, as other characters in this off-beat crime noir. And she isn’t entirely alone on stage – she’s backed up by a virtual young Brad Pitt who pops up on a screen overhead to add a visually comic dimension.

But a topless Brad and Foster’s on-point red lips and red nails aren’t quite enough to lift this show from the atmospherically dingy Vaults Studio Theatre to seedy 1960s Los Angeles, despite Foster’s obvious strengths.

The show is peppered with some clever gender stereotypes role-reversal from co-writers Naomi Westerman, Catherine O’Shea, and Jennifer Cerys. But one performer plays are hard to pull off – how do you move the show beyond a storytelling monologue to something more dimensional?

There is an attempt to do this by including a couple of audience interactions, which added a bit of zip, but overall Double Infeminity doesn’t quite pack a big a punch as the genre it’s riffing off. Foster equips herself well in the role, but is encumbered by a script that never really lifts us into this sleazy world, relying too heavily on the crime noir tropes to tell its story.

The rumbling trains above aren’t the only reason the plot gets lost, the show’s main themes – exploitation of women, what it means to be a woman in a man’s world – don’t ring as loudly as they should, lost amid a narrative that isn’t as tough as the world it’s portraying.