David Lodge has made an intriguing, intensely witty, brainy play of his own novel, changing its title in the process (from Thinks) and bringing it up to date by introducing email as a way of voicing the characters’ secret thoughts.
Kate Coogan (Helen Reed) and Rob Edwards (Ralph Messenger) in Secret Thoughts at the Octagon, Bolton Photo: Ian Tilton
Set on campus, about an affair between two of the chattering classes, he a professor of cognitive science, she a successful author temporarily running the creative writing course, it is one of the most compelling two-handers imaginable. Indeed, at no time do we yearn for other characters and indeed would find their presence intrusive, so focused are we on the interplay between two people whose intellects are diametrically opposed yet who find themselves drawn to each other.
Rob Edwards, recently treading these boards in Shakespearean mode as Juliet’s unthinking father, is magnificent as Ralph Messenger, so self-important that he tapes his own inchoate musings the better to understand the human thought process. Far from revealing how consciousness works, however, they simply draw attention to his priapic tendencies.
In one of her deepest roles since being nominated for a MEN Best Actress award for her performance in Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, at the Manchester Library Theatre, Kate Coogan gives a sharp portrait of Helen Reed, weighed down by a Catholic upbringing and her husband’s recent death. Her natural inclination is to rebuff Ralph but she finds him strangely attractive - and the delicacy of her reserve, thawing and dissolving, has its own resonance.
Director David Thacker has another triumphant world premiere on his hands.