Secrets

May 2, 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩ Honest and revelatory

Mark Wood and Helen Mallon in the PPP/NTS coproduction of Secrets by Lin Weiran and adapted by Rona Munro. Photo © Leslie Black

Mark Wood and Helen Mallon in the PPP/NTS coproduction of Secrets by Lin Weiran and adapted by Rona Munro. Photo © Leslie Black

Bedlam Theatre
Tue 30 April – Sat 4 May, 1pm
Review by Thom Dibdin

Darkly obscure right up to its thought-provoking finale, the latest edition of A Play, A Pie and A Pint lands at the Bedlam Theatre this week in a co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland and the Confucius Institute.

This is the first of a short season of new works by contemporary Chinese writers adapted into English by Scottish playwrights. And fittingly, it’s not so much PPP, as PJP – a Play, a Jiaozi (a kind of Chinese dumpling) and a Pint, thanks to the Institute’s involvement.

A terse script by Chinese writer Lin Weiran – adapted by Rona Munro into strong Scottish accent – thrusts Mark Wood’s unnamed man into the home of Helen Mallon’s married woman.

Little is clear on a naked, black-box set. A window is marked by a low pile of dusty yellow bricks to one side. Across from it a table is similarly  marked out by a slightly more substantial pile of the same bricks. Brick dust covers the clothes of the two actors.

As the script splutters back and forth, a history between the two builds up. Each iteration reflecting a different idea of past – a different interpretation of what happened between them before they split up two years previously.

Wood and Mallon put in formidable, sustained performances, moving and rolling with the emotional punches of the script as the painful truths are gradually exposed.

Wood is all wide-eyed innocence with a broad Doric accent. Wronged, maybe, if her son was conceived while they were still an item – although she insists her good husband, a doctor, is the father. He is clearly a threat – but with nasty kind of passive aggressive nature to it.

A fascinatingly complex character

Mallon wrings out a fascinatingly complex character. Torn between what she has, what should could have, what she thinks she had, what she believes is open to her and what she desperately, oh so very desperately, wants to be true.

Although the setting is clearly Chinese – the external references are of Chinese cities and the artefacts of Chinese society – Monro’s translation finds a very Scottish voice for the characters. This dual identity helps bring the nuances of Lin Weiran’s original to the stage, cultural references which would be missed by a Scottish audience concrete understanding.

But it is the embodiment of loss which director Graeme Maley leads to to understand that these two individuals have suffered which makes the production quite so heart-churning. And the secrets we keep not from each other, but from ourselves.

Bleak stuff for a quiet lunchtime play, it must be said, but also an intriguing glimpse at an aspect of modern life that is shared across cultures.

Running time 50 mins
Tue 30 April – Sat 4 May, 1pm.
Bedlam Theatre, 11b Bristo Place, Lin Weiran
Full details from Bedlam website: www.bedlamtheatre.co.uk

ENDS

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