Four shows into the Lyric Hammersmith’s season of mystery, the in-house rep company is working together more smoothly than ever. Nevertheless, Secret Theatre’s courage and excitement have taken a hit. There’s some chutzpah to Hayley Squires’s reimagining of a bloody Jacobean classic (in the spirit of secrecy, I won’t say its name) but also a critical lack of focus and conceptual coherence.
This game of thrones plays out in the upper reaches of a fascistic state dusted with old-school Hollywood glamour. There’s a tremor of Lynchian weirdness to the dropping of silver-lit musical numbers into the middle of gory action, while the use of blood and bloodied hands to stand in for weaponry is a smart conceit that’s worked intelligently and disturbingly through the text. There’s also a great performance from Leo Bill, whose character’s duplicity is brilliantly conveyed by his constant shifting of accent and register.
The problem is that few of the ideas on offer seem fully integrated or explored. The setting feels less present and significant as the action moves on in Ellen McDougall’s production, fading into the background until we’re basically watching a modern-dress restaging of a familiar tragedy. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed with this latest surprise once the wrapping is off.