Blog – Found at Sea

Feb 22 2013 | By More


By Thom Dibdin

Every part of Found at Sea is brilliant. This “preview of work in progress” at the Traverse to Saturday, is a succession of shimmering moments and glittering sequences.

It is based around a book of poems by Andrew Greig that recounts a sailing trip in a 16′ 5″, open boat from Stromness in Orkney out to overnight on Cava, an abandoned island up the Hoy Sound on the edge of the Scapa Flow.

The project got a one-off first reading last Fringe, as part of the Dream Plays, under David Greig’s direction with actors Tam Dean Burn and Lewis Howden.

Now, it returns on its way to something even bigger.

Words coruscate and reverberate through the opening two sections. First where the Arctic Whaler and its loving restoration is detailed as two men of fifty-plus years, known simply as Skip and Crew, contemplate their forthcoming trip.

Second, in the fine frenzy of swirling nautical language, as they set out up the Sound, tacking against the wind, working to windward, allowing the forces of nature to squeeze them across and through the elements, in and out of a map full of strangely sounding, beautiful names, towards their destination.

Calm happens. A halt. Clapped in irons, as the rudder suddenly fails, becalmed as the wind hustles by, trapped by the laws of physics. And suddenly, amidst Dean Burn and Howden’s glorious flow of language, the ever present, always seen but not yet pulled into focus musician Rachel Newton comes into her own.

Here Newton is wind, nature. The elements that these men can only attempt to use, hitching a ride on its energy, but never forcing it to do their bidding.

On Violin, harp and harmonium, she provides a constant soundtrack to the play of words.

Buy the book:

And then on, to the Island itself. The chalk marked-boat in the clever, minimalist design is rubbed out, tents and a fire replace her on the floor. Whisky is drunk, stories begin. A story of the Royal Oak, a troop ship torpedoed in Scapa Flow during WW2, that reminds of how, when nature’s forces are contained, they can explode. Of how heroism can draw life from death.

A second story – one that rings of Andrew Greig’s own life. Of meeting a dark-haired producer backstage at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall in the 60s, after an Incredible String Band gig. Of following her to London, of an affair with an older woman started, her friendship with Bob Dylan and of losing her, regretting not having kept her friendship.

The next day, exploring the island and discovering the house in which Miss Woodham and Miss Pekham lived, alone for 30 years. A story that has truth and vibrancy in it. Which asks as much as it reveals in a magical, mysterious manner.

Finally, a sudden rushing goose-winged homeward, running before the wind. And in a slender note of melancholy this wonderful, shimmering event is over. Each part a wonder to behold.

And for all that it feels exciting to be there at the beginning of a new piece of theatre, there is still a feeling that this is not yet a fully forged work. If every element glitters, it is not yet clear to what overall effect they do so. Not all feel as if they belong in the sequence. Others, unknown, might yet be added.

There is form and structure to be found in it yet. Here we have the raw material for future wonders. When it returns as a worked progressed, it will be a true wonder in itself.

Running time 1 hour 10 mins.
Traverse Theatre, 8pm.
Run ends Saturday 23 February 2013.
Returns only (worth turning up to see if there are any!)


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