SYDNEY THEATRE COMPANY
By permission of
THE ROYAL NATIONAL THEATRE
London
presents
THE SECRET RAPTURE
by David Hare

 

CAST
(in order of appearance)
ISOBEL GLASS – HEATHER MITCHELL
MARION FRENCH – PAMELA RABE
TOM FRENCH – JOHN GADEN
KATHERINE GLASS – LINDA CROPPER
IRWIN POSNER – HUGO WEAVING
RHONDA MILNE – GABRIELLE MASON

There will be one interval of twenty minutes

DIRECTOR – RODNEY FISHER
DESIGNER – ROBERT KEMP
LIGHTING DESIGNER – JOHN RAYMENT
DRAMATURG – THERESA WILLSTEED
STAGE MANAGER – DI MISIRDJIEFF
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER – ALAYNE KOWALD
PRODUCTION PHOTOGRAPHER – BRANCO GAICA

ACT ONE
Scene One: Robert’s Bedroom
Scene Two: The lawn of Robert’s house
Scene Three: Isobel’s office
Scene Four: Robert’s living room
ACT TWO
Scene Five: Isobel’s new offices
Scene Six: Tom’s office
Scene Seven: Katherine’s flat
Scene Eight: Robert’s living room

This production of The Secret Rapture opened at the Drama Theatre of the Sydney Opera House on Wednesday, 14th February, 1990.


Allegorical tale of Maggie and the 1980s

The “secret rapture” is the moment when nuns meet Christ; or to put it more generally, the moment when those dedicated to the pursuit of the Good encounter it. Though David Hare has given this title to his play, The Secret Rapture is not about a religious journey or experience.

Yet the words act as an echo, a suggestive whisper, behind the work -while Hare explores moral questions of good and evil in human behaviour.

In The Secret Rapture’s world, “good” is love and care and concern for others, epitomised by Isobel; “evil” is utter selfishness (Marion, Isobel’s sister) and self-absorption (Tom, her brother-in-law), the pursuit of mammon and that parasitical condition peculiar to many of us — where ideas of self-worth are only gained by living off or through the strength of others (Katherine, the young widow of Isobel’s late, beloved father; and Irwin, her lover).

In no uncertain terms does Hare make it clear that “evil” is the definition of Thatcherism in Britain, and the moral climate of the 1980s elsewhere.

Hare does not leave it there. The Secret Rapture’s ultimately disturbing thesis is that it is impossible for good to triumph — or even to survive — in such a life-sapping, emotionally abortive climate. It is therefore particularly fitting — or is it ironic? — that the most difficult part to pull off, as he has written it, is Isobel (Heather Mitchell). Isobel has a Nast capacity for loving, for caring and a strongly developed moral responsibility towards those less fortunate than herself. Hare’s rather slight plot centres on her struggle to survive as herself — “just be” — as her family and her lover act and react, sometimes violently, to her acts of “goodness”: her understanding of them and her love for them.

Under Rodney Fisher’s astute and tight direction, Mitchell manages to negotiate the strait between the Chary-bdis of sanctimoniousness and the Scylla of all-forgiving tolerance, inherent in the character, by injecting into her Isobel an underlying puzzled despair and pain.

Hugo Weaving as Irwin is also faced with the extremely difficult task of moving from calm rationality into almost psychotic, emotional dependency. Here, the plot structure is not so sure, asking an enormous leap on the audience’s part into accepting his character’s disintegra-tion. Weaving skilfully pulls it off.

Likewise, Fisher’s gamble in allowing Pamela Rabe’s arch-conservative Marion and John Gaden’s superb performance of Tom to verge close to comic caricature throughout the play, to collapse in its final moving moments into a deeply felt, genuine relationship, pays off beautifully.

It gives a positive and uplifting ending to what is a fundamentally pessimistic view, leaving a message of hope in the air. It suggests that the chance of experiencing some kind of secret rapture might not just be as a faint echo, but as a tangible possibility.

Angela Bennie

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald | 16 February 1990


Photos: Branco Gaica