Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | Secret Island by the Secret Studio Lab
Ginger Hibiscus | Secret Island by the Secret Studio Lab
Ginger Hibiscus | Secret Island by the Secret Studio Lab
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-19809,single-format-standard,tribe-no-js,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.2.1,vc_responsive

04 Aug REVIEW: Secret Island by the Secret Studio Lab

Secret Theatre 01There’s a definite thrill when it comes to signing up for something with a name like “Secret Theatre,” the ambiguity a feast for the imagination as you venture into the unknown. But with attendees all arriving with vastly different visions for their evening, like an enormous set of kaleidoscopes turning to show different patterns, Secret Studio Lab have a challenge on their hands to meet – to surpass – those different hopes and expectations, and to arrange of all those little glass beads so that the light is able to shine through. But as this reviewer finds, when those coloured droplets fall perfectly into place, lit by the setting sun, the result is absolutely stunning.

Secret Studio Lab present “Secret Island” as exactly that – a secret – keeping the details of the show firmly under wraps until you turn up. So whilst it’s an exciting leap of faith seeing a show in that way, it would also be a very brief (and useless) review that just says “wait and see!” whilst refusing to comment on the merits of the production. So it’s up to you: if you’re planning to see the show, want to avoid all spoilers, and maintain the element of surprise, you should stop reading at the end of this paragraph. But if you want to enter into the circle of trust, where some, but not all, is revealed, then continue this way…

Like a monolith of wealth and privilege growing out of the remnants of what was, until recently, one of the most deprived areas in London, the “Secret Island,” also known as London City Island, sits in the Leamouth peninsula near Canning Town. Dubbed a “mini-Manhatten,” the bubble of prosperity is protected from existing residents by a body of water, creating a very literal – and very visible – “us and them,” between two communities who, when the development is complete, will be living as neighbours. Such a forceful juxtaposition provides a link (albeit tenuous) between location and play, this division between communities echoing the rival groups from which the play’s two teenagers hail before they meet and fall in love, with tragically Shakespearean results.

Moving within and around the City Island marketing suite, itself a triumph of urban planning and high-end design, the setting seems to be bourne out of opportunity rather than fit, with other shows, even other Shakespeare plays, seemingly much better matches for a production entitled “Secret Island” than Romeo and JulietThe Tempest, anyone? But dismissing the title and without dwelling on the fact that it’s better described as a “promenade performance” than “immersive theatre,” this is a class-act Romeo and Juliet production that rivals – if not, eclipses – any this reviewer has seen. And I’ve clocked a lot of crypt scenes.

Maintaining much of Shakespeare’s script, the play is recontextualised for East London, the Montagues seemingly yanked straight from the football terraces, before turning up, uninvited to the beautiful home of the Capulets, where a family party, Southern Asian style, is underway. But where recontextualisations often leave gaping conceptual holes, this version of Romeo and Juliet is a surprisingly snug fit, coherent on a number of thematic and intellectual levels, as well as just being excellently delivered.

Secret Theatre 02With fight scenes that firmly withstand the close scrutiny of an audience within touching distance, and convincing acting across the board, particular mention has to go to Denholm Spurr for his truly intemperate Mercutio, in a boisterous depiction with masses of charisma, as well as to Dilek Latif whose bonkers Nurse keeps energy levels high as nighttime draws in, ordering audiences between scenes with a swish of a shayla and shrilly-barked command.

The main question mark rests on whether or not the production should be called something that gives at least a hint to the fact that it is an adaptation of a Shakespeare play. Some people just don’t like Shakespeare, and so will, inevitably, be disappointed. But many, many more will arrive in the belief they don’t like Shakespeare and return converted, having engaged with his writing in a way they never have before, and that can only be exciting.

An awesomely ambitious project, Secret Studio Lab’s Romeo and Juliet is one of those secrets that once discovered just compels you to shout about it.

For information:
For tickets:
Venue: Buy a ticket to receive the location of the secret island, the password and all the information you’ll need.
Dates: 1st August – 1st September 2015

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here