The Secret Keeper is set in an odd upside down contemporary fairytale world, where the Nobel Prize exists but secrets are also magpies, where there are condoms but people are known by their jobs, like The Inn Keeper’s Wife, The Doll’s House Maker and, in the case of our narrator, The Good Daughter. Reputation precedes everyone and the secrets smothering the town are starting to cause a stink. Our heroine’s uncle was murdered nine years ago and her father has never recovered, in an attempt to help him she asks him to confide in her, and as he does (giving her his magpie) a huge weight is lifted from him and he instantly becomes happy again, just as he was before the murder. This miracle quickly spreads around town and Good Daughter becomes the emotional crutch for the entire town, tacitly forgiving people with her absorption of their secrets.
This play is creepy, but it’s also very funny. The set-up of the fairytale vs the down to earth is a fun source of jokes, the undermining of both worlds proves fertile ground, the writing is wonderfully sharp and constantly surprising. The cast are excellent also, Maycock, Odeke and Ashdown are consistently brilliant in all of their dozens of multi roles, as magpies/secrets at the Question Time-esque secret secret meeting, as the overbearing, fallible parents, and particularly Ashdown as the chillingly pragmatic Chemist. Clerkin as Good Daughter is naïve and precocious, taking the secrets easily at first and then less easily, sick of the messy and dark grown up world she’s forced to swallow.
The set is fun and clever, simple props and costumes allow for easy multi-rolling and a few key set pieces add to the atmosphere. Good Daughter is almost always in her attic room, elevated away from the town on top of a box, peaking out from underneath is some snow or maybe a beautiful, beautiful dress (we never get to see it, which I was a little sad about.) There’s a tiny piano, a series of boxes and microphones and an unnerving doll (which looks a little like Good Daughter and speaks with her voice) who announces the chapter titles.
The ending of this show was genuinely one of the most unsettling things I’ve seen in a while and I absolutely didn’t see it coming. The feeling didn’t linger, leaving as soon as I left the theatre, but whilst it was on stage I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. In a play about lies, and about covering them up, I felt hideously complicit.