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The Sea: the struggle to survive

Sea, One Boy, a drifting island and a restless sea.
Directed by Julie Noaln and Kate Parker
Red Leap Theatre
Maidment Theatre
March 6 - 10

You should probably always read the programme notes for theatre productions. They often explain things that are not necessarily clear on stage. But of course to read the programme notes they need to be legible in the half light of the theatre. Anyway, for Sea I didn’t read the notes so my take on the play was just a bit different from the synopsis in the programme.

The programme noted that the show was about “survivors of a huge ecological disaster struggling for their lives in the wake of a monstrous wave that has seen them thrown into a vast and rolling ocean”. Their battle with the elements was almost mythic in concept as they build a rafting island on which they remain for several years becoming ecological warriors. I thought they were merely survivors from a shipwreck going through the day-to-day problems of surviving at sea, trying to navigate by the stars, getting water, not drinking the sea water, catching fish and turtles and generally battling the sun and storm.

Our two stories were remarkably the same and the life on my lifeboat was similar to life on a raft. Both stories become metaphors for negotiating the ecological and environmental issues around the use of the ocean and its resources.

There was also the mythic element I missed which is probably central to the themes of the play. It concerns a baby who is lost overboard, saved by and nurtured by the creatures of the sea, who returns later as a young man as some sort of ecological messiah.

The nine actors combined acting with mime and dance to create the little world of the boat battling the elements with great energy and marvellous dance sequences.

The story unfolds like the pages of a pop-up children’s story with the various episodes providing clever vignettes.

One of the problems with the play was that there were no real fully fleshed characters, they were all ciphers. With no individuals to relate to and very little speech, the story is conveyed with stylish mime and dance but there was no real emotional or dramatic relationships between the characters to create real emotional drama

The minimalist set (designed by John Verryt) with blue lighting (Vanda Karolczak) and some huge sheets representing the ocean and the huge waves, which envelop the actors, was impressive. Along with the soundscape (Claire Cowan) of natural and invented sounds of the sea they managed to create a sense of the vastness of the ocean.

The cast displayed a strong physicality in representing a group assaulted by the elements and buffeted by their own fear and desperation.

Overall, there was a real sense of individuals as a group in its struggle as well as the need to navigate not just the perils of the sea but also contemporary ecological and environmental issues.

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