Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Secret Rapture

David Hare
Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue
(2003)

It is a given that Shakespeare's plays are set in another, long gone time. It comes as more of a surprise to find that a play written and set only fifteen years ago must now be seen as a historical document.

Guy Retallack's revival of this overt attack on the evils of Thatcherism tries manfully to overcome a series of weaknesses. Its generally stiff cast appears under-rehearsed and Jenny Seagrove is not well cast as the central figure, Isobel. Many of the issues that would have seemed important or shocking to an audience of left-wing intellectuals in 1988 hardly raise an eyebrow now.

Capitalism with a born-again Christian cloak has won and anyone stupid enough to be idealistic and determinedly good, as Isobel is, cannot be taken seriously. Similarly, we are now used to rabid Tory ice maidens like her sister Marion, an unscrupulous Government minister, played by Belinda Lang.

The play gains much strength in the second half as Isobel forsakes husband and lover to protect her ungrateful (and much younger) stepmother, Liza Walker, the pick of the cast, giving a suitably emotional performance as the beautifully costumed, self-destructive Katherine (courtesy of designer, Robert Jones).

There must be a question mark over whether this sometimes funny but uneven revival has enough to say about life today. The conclusion is probably no - but it may make a few people re-evaluate Tony Blair's values and their own and for that it is welcome.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher