Review: The Secret Agent
A suicide bomber loose in London? A police force caught between the twin demands of liberty and civic protection? Foreigners in our midst with mischief on their minds?
The themes in Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel The Secret Agent are so keen that this new theatrical interpretation could have been commissioned by the Relevance Board, funded by Relevance UK from a brief by Relevant & Relevant.
But relevance is an aspect of theatre that excites directors and marketing people. To an audience, relevance is merely a neat conceit – like a cupholder in the stalls or a spoon in the lid of an ice cream tub – a tricksy convenience that elicits a momentary spark of tiny delight before the main meal of story and character.
That is not to say the new adaptation of Conrad’s work at Greenwich Theatre was without plot and argument. There was, perhaps, too much. The jumping hither and thither was so distracting we weren’t sure if the shocks were meant to be shocking or the outrages meant to outrage. Or vice versa.
None of this was the fault of the four flexible stalwarts from Rolemop Arts who took to the stage literally and metaphorically wearing different hats. They had the craft and precision to deliver the well-metered lines with conviction and, occasionally, humour. None of this, in fact, spoiled a pleasant evening. The production was technically slick and effortlessly professional and vast screeds of material were condensed into a neat bluffer’s guide.
But, the fact is, on a cold night when we mostly wanted a warm cup of something to love, we were presented with a vast slab of something to admire.