The Mikron Theatre Company’s Can You Keep a Secret? opens with Bain, a destitute Yorkshireman, begging on the streets of London. He remembers the Luddite rebellion of 20 years ago and the terrible secret which means that he can never go home: – “they were hard times, Mr Dickens”, he tells a passer-by.
The play tells the story of a group of croppers (skilled cloth finishers) from Marsden, near Huddersfield and is based closely on the real events of 1812. Mechanisation means the end of the old cottage-based economy as production is centralised to mills where one machine can do the work of ten men. In Yorkshire, starvation leads the desperate croppers to form secret societies to smash the hated machines and mill owners secretly take delivery of more equipment. Meanwhile, in London, Parliament ignores the growing economic and humanitarian crisis whilst passing increasingly punitive public order legislation. The stage is set for tragedy.
Can You Keep a Secret is a tightly written drama using words and songs to distil the essence of the Luddite movement. The performance, in which four actors move seamlessly between multiple roles, was outstanding and was complemented by the excellent acoustics of Oxford Science Park’s Sadler Building.
After the show, Daily Information asked actor Ruth Cataroch whether any of the cast had changed their view of the Luddites during the run of the play. She explained that all the character decisions had been made during the rehearsal period and that it was important to the integrity of the piece to maintain these characterisations. Their aim, she said, had been to show sympathy for all the characters without romanticizing them and to capture the raw passion of the original events.
Although Mikron are taking this production northwards, Oxfordshire audiences will have an opportunity to see this gifted company at work in Losing the Plot (a celebration of allotments) at Adderbury (10th Aug.) and Cropredy (31st Aug. – 1st Sep.)
More at: www.mikron.org.uk