Timothy Lone and Rhona Richards directed by Erik Abbott
Photo: Steve Eastwood (archives)
Theatre: Actors Rep do sterling work again in Daniel Pinkerton’s award-winning “Do You Want To Know A Secret?”
It’s the late 80s in East Berlin. The end of the Cold War. The Soviet empire has fallen and the protests, tear gas and struggles are over. But life is replaced with paranoia and a new kind of fear. Fear that a secret is threatening to tear your whole life apart. Written by Daniel Pinkerton, the award-winning “Do You Want To Know A Secret?” is presented by Actors Rep with the Mierschier Kulturhaus.
The plot is a recipe for success, letting us in on the secrets of a family who, like many, were deeply affected by the Cold War. Walter Berger, played by Timothy Lone, is madly in love with his wife Karin, played by Rhona Richards, who later becomes a political prisoner. When she is released from prison several years later, the Cold War is over but the tragedy has only just begun. Karin is relieved to be reunited with her husband and daughter. But when it emerges that one in ten citizens were informing the Stasi (state police) and she is granted access to read her files, Karin’s life is forever changed.
The production begins with video footage of an interview with Walter. Director Erik Abbott uses the stage rather creatively. The backdrop comprises three large screens, where the intimate footage of each character is projected. To be confronted first with video rather than live action immediately captivates the audience. It is as if the play is not being performed for them, but rather that they are peering into the drama.
Video clips between scenes reveal the conversations that different characters have had with the Stasi. The video is also cleverly used later on to screen press conferences and leaked material. It makes the whole production seem much more real. The audience becomes part of Karin’s investigation into her past. We become part of her tragedy.
Richards is nothing short of amazing. Drawing the audience in with a vivid portrayal of a defiant woman with aspirations to save the world, Karin is notorious for her courage and her rebellious nature. But she emerges from prison, vulnerable, anxious and stuck in the past. The actress successfully brings the audience along with her as she delves into her lost years. Her father, Wolf Niedermann, who was once a leading figure of the party, is cold, unemotional yet so despicably calm. Gilbert K Johnston delivered a cool and controlled performance, exuding the kind of quiet confidence that had the audience itching for more.
Perhaps it’s the scenes with Karin’s daughter, Erika Berger, played by Sarah Lamesch, which really make the audience feel as if we’re peeking. The moments on stage between Erika and her parents are so raw and painful that you almost need to look away.
As the play unfolds, it becomes more and more apparent, that “Do you want to know a secret?” is a dangerous invitation. There’s not a single moment that allows the audience to relax--that was the most delectable effect of the play. As we sat on the edge of our seat, we were sitting on the fine line between watching and peeking. Something not too dissimilar to the work of the Stasi.
“Do You Want To Know A Secret?” is on at the Mierscher Kulturhaus until 13 March, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets can be booked on tel. 47 08 95 1 or online via Luxembourg Ticket.