Monday, 1 February 2016

Review: i know all the secrets in my world, West Herts College

"Dad...?"

When one suffers from a traumatic loss, there can be no words to get you through the day. Which is acknowledged by Natalie Ibu's i know all the secrets in my world as barely a word is spoken between the two main characters. And equally true is the fact that life has to go on for those left behind, no matter how hard it may seem, which is what Ibu shows us in this story of a father and son struggling to deal with the loss of a wife and mother.

The strength of their relationship, in all its playful beauty, is played out in a gorgeous prologue around the breakfast table, Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster's movement perfectly choreographed. But then darkness falls and their world is broken, literally so as Alyson Cummins' cramped apartment set cracks open and from then on, Solomon Israel's father is left to deal with an all-encompassing grief that is smothering him and his young son, played with athletic grace by Samuel Nicholas.

Through a series of short scenes, we see snapshots of them trying to piece their lives back together, the older man's numbness, the younger's acting out, the isolation as each retreats into himself. Father tries to recreate his wife's presence through a pile of pillows in bed next to him, scented with her perfume; son fashions a mannequin dressed in her clothes from a mop in a bucket. Their connection seems fractured though slowly, painstakingly, love begins to work through the loss. 

Produced by tiata fahodzi in association with Watford Palace Theatre for a tour stretching across England, i know all the secrets in my world is a strikingly original meditation on grief and the different ways in which it can poleaxe us. Israel (recently so very good in Octagon) shows real maturity and tenderness as he adjusts to life as a single parent and Nicholas finds real emotion in the youngster finding succour in the world of superheroes and really impressing with his physical work.

The episodic nature of the play means that it does at times feel disjointed, scene transitions could be smoother and Ibu's direction doesn't quite sustain its intensity of its best moments, the impact of some sequences dissipating in their repetitiousness. But when it is good, it is achingly, all-too-recognisably rooted in the voice of real authenticity, all without hardly saying a word.

Running time: 1 hour (without interval)
Booking until 30th January, then touring to The Porter Theatre, Framlingham College; Pegasus Theatre, Oxford; Salisbury Playhouse; Workshop Theatre, Leeds University; Unity Theatre, Liverpool; Lincoln Drill Hall; Bristol Old Vic; The Lowry, Salford; The Drum, Birmingham; Nottingham Playhouse; Mercury Theatre, Colchester; and The Albany, London

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