Political thriller to rival anything Spooks can do
Secret terror cells, political conspiracy, police bungling, state-sponsored bomb plots… This could be a James Bond movie, or the TV series Spooks. In fact The Secret Agent, inspired by Joseph Conrad's novel of the same name, is set in London in 1896. Theatre O's production is a heartbreaking chronicle of passion, betrayal and terrorism.
Conrad's 1907 book is an early example of the political thriller. It is the story of a reluctant spy pressured by a foreign power to blow up the Greenwich Observatory and provoke the UK government into passing repressive legislation. It was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's 1936 movie Sabotage.
One of Theatre O's strengths is creating atmosphere. In The Secret Agent, elements of music hall and early cinema style help add an authentic period feel.
Set at a time of social upheaval and growing disparity between rich and poor, at the heart of this tale is a woman fighting to protect her young brother from exploitation. The question we have to ask ourselves is; what has really changed?
"Every day we were reading similar stories in the papers," says company artistic director Joseph Alford. "Conrad would not have been surprised. He believed that history is cyclical if we keep making the same mistakes.
"You think the story is about a family man, then you learn he's a pornographer, an anarchist, a secret agent – then you think 'oh, it's not really about him at all'.
"It's really about us as a society and what we think about each other."
The Secret Agent is at The Drum, Plymouth, from October 22-26.