‘A few technical hitches’: Secret Boulevard at #55 The Courtyard

How far should we let logistical errors influence our judgement of a production?

Secret Boulevard

Tucked away in a Hoxton side street, The Courtyard is an inviting venue comprised of one main performance space and a smaller studio theatre. Secret Boulevard, Dylan Costello’s new play about the repercussions of a gay relationship in 1950s Hollywood on affairs of the 1990s, is fittingly performed in the studio theatre.

A fresh and thought-provoking writer, Costello asks difficult questions of story that is otherwise all too commonplace. George, a social misfit, is the child borne of a rouse marriage between gay actor Patrick Glass and his leading lady. As George struggles keep his catalogue-bought fiancee Eva under his thumb, we are left to wonder who is to blame for his disfunctionality: should we be critical of the central gay relationship which we are otherwise encouraged to endorse?

A promising play in a promising space: this thoughtful play makes a good start. The cast, however, would have benefited if a little more thought had been put into the technical elements of the production. Unfortunately for them, the raucous Marat/Sade is also playing at the same time in the main space of the theatre. There are sound bleeds galore, and at one point it sounded like the entire company of Riverdance were dancing above us. A lighting cue was missed, leaving the actors in the dark for half a minute. The house lights came on, then off, then on again, and the sound of speedy footsteps echoed around. Was the same lighting technician operating both shows? It certainly sounded that way.

Although enjoyment of Secret Boulevard was not irreparably damaged, the audience was brought abruptly out of the world to which we were so cleverly transported and back into an awkward reality. In a world in which productions are increasingly slick, it’s something of a rarity to experience such a difficult technical moment in a show. As much as we try and look past it, it’s still happened, and it’s still broken the divide established between actor and audience. Can we really look past it?


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2 Responses to ‘A few technical hitches’: Secret Boulevard at #55 The Courtyard

  1. David Shackleton says:

    In her review of ‘Secret Boulevard’ now showing at the Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton, Helena Rampley refers to ‘technical hitches’ and ‘logistical errors’.

    The ‘missed lighting cue’ was not that at all – it was a power cut, which mercifully did not last long – though at the time it felt like it, to audience, crew and cast alike.
    The noise from the boisterous show in the upper venue was not something the producer or director could have foreseen, and certainly was disturbing – again for everyone, not just the audience. However, the theatre’s management acted quickly once made aware of the problem and worked through the night of Friday 8th to build a false floor above the existing acting space to muffle the sound.

    I can report that this has worked and the sounds from above are far less intrusive – comparable perhaps with the sounds of underground trains commonly heard in the auditoriums of some nonetheless expensive West End theatres.

    It is a crowded, cheek-by-jowel life we lead in the big city and sometimes one element of the metropolitan kaleidoscope spills over into another. We just have to do the best we can, and make it work.

    • Hi David,

      Thanks for your response and for shedding some light on the matter. Glad to hear that the sound problems have been worked through – I had not realised that the lighting problem was the result of a power cut. It seems like some bad luck hit The Courtyard that night!

      The cast coped admirably well with the ‘overspilling’ and I very much enjoyed the show regardless of the unforeseen hitches – one to recommend now that the false floor is in place!


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