Glitterland is a country where the politicians perform daily. It is an act in which they deny their corruption, and an act in which they must present themselves as perfect citizens of a “wonderful world”. Of course, they are anything but perfect; Nemo (Leo Bill) pimps out his starlet sister Victoria (Katherine Pierce) as it suits him, agreeing her betrothal to head of state Ciano (Hammed Animashaun) just minutes after promising to spare her the horror; Ludo is ousted for behaving in public exactly as the others do behind closed doors; this is a game of moves and counter-moves, none of which are pleasant, or desirable from a public figure.
Yet despite this dark view of government, Glitterland remains entertaining and even amusing in moments filled with tension. Ciano’s slow wit lifts scenes of death threats and violence; when cornered, Nemo fumbles amusingly; Victoria’s singing lifts tense, dark scenes into the realm of pure entertainment. It moves the plot smoothly on and means the audience can really enjoy some of these moments.
Ultimately, Glitterland is about entertainment. The dazzling Victoria is central to the government because she brings lightness and charisma to their scene and helps them put up a united front of sunshine and happiness. She is vibrant and wonderful, and so Glitterland is vibrant and wonderful. Film executive Monty (Nadia Albina) is also vital to the government – entertainment must be represented – and his status is on par with the biggest political heavyweights. Entertainment is political and all output serves a propagandistic function; even the national anthem is a jazz standard, derived from popular entertainment.
The script is confusing at times, and the staging doesn’t always lend itself to engagement or understanding of the themes at hand: a sudden burst of club music, strobe lights and hip hop dance seems to come from nowhere and make no sense; I was completely at a loss as to the function of Adelle Leonce’s character; in essence, it just didn’t quite come together.
The joy of Secret Theatre is not particularly in its artistic merit as displayed on stage, though there is considerable acting talent and some interesting directing choices; rather it is intrinsically linked to the buzz around the concept and the anticipation of what the show will be like without making any pre-judgments. Aside from the title, I managed to arrive not knowing anything about the show I was about to see, and irrespective of this artistic choice I was not blown away by the show itself. It’s good, but it’s not great.
Secret Theatre is a great concept, and I hope the company has more in store in the future, but Glitterland didn’t always perform.
Show 4: Glitterland played as part of Secret Theatre at Lyric Hammersmith. For more information, see the Lyric Hammersmith website.