Pulled under by a comic current

Review: The Sea, The Stables Theatre, The Bourne.

Friday, 24th June 2011, 12:01 pm

THE Sea struck me as a theatrical realisation of a student conversation, pursued into the early hours with ever-widening waves of intensity, much laughter and nonsense, and excitement over ideas which most of us workaday souls have long given up pondering.

1907: a world of wide social stratification, defensiveness and obsession about possible invasion from malevolent other worlds. We are invited, in a welter of ship-wreck, lost love, lost sanity and lost social confidence, to reflect – as summed up by Evens (Peter Bradbury) in his excellent, if truncatable, final speech - upon the ‘sea’ of troubles and comedy that make up our human existence.

We were treated to a compelling performance by Jason Newton as Hatch, the draper who began the play dangerously paranoid but who was tipped into really deep water by a mundane economic failure. Also at centre stage was his detrimentor, the autocratic Louise Rafi (Maureen Nelson) carrying off the arrogance of the upper classes to a ‘T’.

James Burke played Willy Carson, the stranger washed up on the hostile shore. The show opened with his anguish in the storm, and we wanted more of this intensity in the latter stages of the play.

Rose (Anya Williams) interpreted the disappointed fiancée in a dazed, unsettled character whose role gave little time in which to develop.

Light relief was provided in the form of a ‘play within a play’ scene and, oddly, a funeral scene. The former needed an injection of pace but there were some lovely moments, such as Jilly (Clare Thomas) becoming overwrought at the emotion of their acting endeavours, and the reluctant ‘dog lady’ Mafanwy (Sarah Church). No cliff-top funeral should be without a banner, if its bearers are as stalwart as these. And if you are ever handed a palmful of a friend’s ashes, don’t scream and throw them away – have some respect.

Hats off also to the set-builders for one of the most open visuals that we have seen in some time, and perhaps especially to those in charge of costumes (Carole Bailey) and hair (Michelle Bennett) – splendid.

by Margaret Blurton.