Stage review: The Secret Agent, Young Vic
The Secret Agent
Maria at Young Vic
IN A NUTSHELL
Theatre O take the prescient themes of Joseph Conrad's classic and present them with intriguing, if disjointed, visual flair.
The notion of the state creating terror to vanquish the terrorist is a pressing theme of our age.
Less so, perhaps, when Joseph Conrad took a genuine incident of a bungled bomb in Greenwich and concocted a fiction of anarchists, infiltrators, public revulsion and state manipulation. The book, published in 1907, was a slow burner, mostly because it was "unpleasant". So Conrad adapted the novel as a three-act drama in 1923. It flopped, not revived until 2008.
The imaginative Theatre O clearly saw more than the text than others and while their filleted version - full of visual flair, surreal flourishes, audience participation (ugh) - is interesting, it is not as forceful as it should be given its topicality.
The story is deconstructed into sequences each adopting a different tone - melodrama, music hall, satire, tragedy.
One minute Verloc (George Potts) is the wide-eyed dupe in a mad hatter's tea party, the next he's marching his simpleton brother-in-law to his grisly doom. We might laugh, we might cry but the production's methods are too muddled and undercooked to evoke what it really wants - an epiphany of terror.
In contrast, because Carolina Valdes' put-upon Winnie Verloc stays oppressed and miserable throughout, her eventual catharsis is the most effective - emotionally and stylistically.
Leander Deeny, Dennis Herdman and Helena Lymbery are emphatic and versatile in their varied roles but there is no great sense of intrigue or polemic. In the end it passes muster as a promising spectacle but not as a compelling story.
Until Sept 21, Young Vic, £10-£19.50, youngvic.org