Review- Secret Theatre Hong Kong

  5-10-19

By David Ogilvie

 

 

Justice meets gameshow in the ambitious courtroom comedy-drama from immersive performance-makers Secret Theatre Hong Kong. The play, simply titled Secret Theatre Hong Kong, is set during an unspecified future where the death penalty has returned to the UK and the media’s power has reached such proportions that they are allowed to film the court proceedings as a reality TV show. 

A kind of Silence Of The Lambs meets Love Island mash-up then, complete with startlingly realistic recreations of multiple murders and hints of cannibalism. The audience, or rather the “jury”, are asked to decide whether the accused, Dr Clarence Lassiter (Mike Brooks), is guilty or innocent. The far larger question, of course, is whether justice can truly prevail in such a hyped up, sensationalist courtroom where producers, directors, and TV presenters attempt to drive the narrative and influence the outcome of the case.

Before the courtroom proceedings begin, the audience is sworn in as jury members by the presiding judge (Veenesh Dubois) before being invited to survey a blood-splattered hotel suite where a horrific triple homicide has taken place. We’re then taken to the prison cell where Dr. Lassiter is incarcerated with a straitjacket and Dr. Lecter-like mask so that we can direct questions directly to him. It’s all terrific fun, and the small but significant details reward the keen-eyed. The actors do a great job by keeping in character as they mingle with the audience, who are encouraged to pepper them with questions about the homicides. The actors cleverly drip-feed plot points to the audience during this period, piquing their interest whilst carefully not giving too much away.

Eventually, we are brought through to the courtroom by the Trial TV presenter (Oliver Williams), in a gold sparkling jacket reminiscent of TV shows from a bygone era), where the action really begins. A variety of witnesses take the stand for both the Defence (Hamish Campbell) and the Prosecutor (Candice Moore), including a Detective Chief Inspector (Robert Archibald), a conniving nymphet (Kathy Mak), a prison warden (Vicky Rummon), and a forensic pathologist (Reggie Yip). The witnesses, in particular, seemed somewhat underwritten and their cross-examinations are on occasion bafflingly weak, although this is not the fault of the actors, who are uniformly strong and get the most out of a rather uneven script. Indeed the plot is fairly thin in places and, just occasionally, the audience/jurors appeared a bit lost by the proceedings. The poor acoustics of the impressive venue did not help, which made it particularly hard to hear those appearing on the witness stand.

Just as things appear to have come to a conclusion, there is a twist that comes as a huge surprise and is greatly entertaining – if somewhat gimmicky – and allows for some enjoyable audience interaction.  

Making fantastic use of the considerable space provided in the beautiful Tai Kun area – the former police headquarters and prison – this show is cleverly crafted and offers a light-hearted critique of our appetite for sensationalism, which is all the more frightening for being so scarily plausible.

Secret Theatre Hong Kong is co-directed by artistic director Richard Crawford and local director Candice Moore. For more information about this show click here

 


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