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The Secret Agent (Edinburgh Fringe)

Theatre O's take on Joseph Conrad's 1907 political thriller is a shoddy and tedious affair, says Chris Snow

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Theatre O make their debut at the Traverse with a take on Joseph Conrad's 1907 novel, political thriller The Secret Agent.

Using a variety of loose theatrical techniques and devices, mainly centring on vaudevillian storytelling and music hall, the adaptation attempts to explore anarchy and the rise of terrorism through the story of Adolf Verloc, an ineffectual spy charged with the task of destroying the Greenwich Observatory.

Though the novel is astonishing, and the plot-line potentially rather pertinent in our current terrorist-fearing society, this production is slow, clunky and directionless.

Writer Matthew Hurt and director Joseph Alford insist on framing the action with odd music hall-style sections, feeling awkward and rather out of place amongst what should be a fairly clear story. There's a ludicrous chunk of audience interaction, odd songs and movement pieces, ill-considered double casting and no real sense of tone or pace.

Though it has some strong visuals from Simon Daw's set, the plot feels so crammed into this style that it isn't much of a redeeming feature.

Performances are fairly below par too, particularly from Carolina Valdes and Dennis Herdman who are very limp. The only real spark of energy and life comes from Leander Deeny's incredibly performed Vladimir, who sadly only makes a fleeting appearance.

Lines are fluffed, performers nearly trip over on several occasions and, all in all, this is a shoddy and tedious affair. Theatre O here massacre Conrad's wonderful story; the production left me feeling irritated and confused.

- Chris Snow

The Secret Agent continues at the Traverse Theatre until 25 August before transferring to the Young Vic from 4 September.