first night

Hidden

Max Lindon enters the unknown with Battered Soul Theatre's enigmatic new production.

 'Hidden's publicity campaign was one of the most inventive in recent times, replacing repetitive “Meet the Cast’s” with an active attempt to prevent anyone from knowing who was involved with the show that included a plea from the actors after they had taken their bows and the use of Facebook cover photos as red herrings. The play itself was also a relative unknown, with Battered Soul being the first theatre company to put it on since its Edinburgh Fringe debut in 2014.

Unfortunately, ‘Hidden’ failed to live up to the intrigue surrounding it. I was expecting the characters to be hiding dark and provocative secrets, when in reality all that they confessed to were some banal insecurities about familiar topics; such as not getting enough sex or being unhappy in their job. Of course, when handled adroitly, such subjects can be agonisingly relatable. However, this was undermined by a script that often drifted into cliché- a notable example being one character’s discussion of a potential pregnancy which was entirely predictable, falling back on tropes such as a ticking biological clock and the pressure of constant enquiries as to when you will settle down. The structure of many characters whose lives are coincidentally connected was an intriguing one, but these different plotlines ultimately never came together in a cathartic way, with the ending instead feeling strangely abrupt.

Most of the play is comprised of monologues, which offered amusing insights into the thoughts of the characters as they went about their monotonous daily routines. I couldn’t help but feel that this central premise wasn’t really executed with enough gusto. The device of an internal monologue can allow for some hilariously brutal honesty- ‘Peep Show’ immediately springs to mind- but in this case I felt that it wasn’t used to its maximum potential. The lines flirted around the edges of the characters' hidden sexual desires without really getting into the gritty details, held back by a restraint that felt artificial.

As you might have noticed, I didn’t really get along with ‘Hidden’, but it would be amiss not to credit the actors for their fine performances. All 6 roles in the show were taken on by just 2 actors, who showed a remarkable talent for accents to diversify characters that were otherwise tricky to distinguish due to the lack of time for development in a brief 60 minute run-time. Their delivery was invariably spot-on and they made the most of the humour in the script, to the frequent delight of the audience. A monologue by the male actor where he detailed a romantic encounter during his commute stands out as a particular highlight. He kept the audience on tenterhooks throughout with his growing sense of excitement before bringing everything back down to earth with a final revelation.

The show was also effectively staged, with a minimalist set that was able to smoothly transition between office, supermarket, and the homes of the various characters. This removed the need for any scene changes, which could’ve disrupted the play’s momentum. When there were breaks between scenes, these were punctuated nicely with humorous ‘customer service announcements’ from the Assembly Rooms’ speakers. There was much to admire in ‘Hidden’, but I just couldn’t get past a script that never lived up to its promising concept. 

 

5 February 2016

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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