Lost At Sea

May 21 2019 | By More

★★★★☆    Poignant

King’s Theatre: Mon 20–Wed 22 May 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Perth Theatre’s production of Lost At Sea, at the King’s until Wednesday, is emotional, humane and beautifully staged.

Morna Young’s play, written in 2012 but only now getting a full-scale production, draws inspiration from her own father, who was himself lost at sea in 1989.

Lost at Sea by Morna Young. L-R: Jennifer Black, Gerry Mulgrew, Helen McAlpine, Kim Gerard, Thoren Ferguson, Ali Craig, Andy Clark. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

This, however, is an entirely fictional tale, albeit one that draws on testimony from real people, and acts as a tribute to those many – in the North-East and elsewhere – who have lost their lives on trawlers.

Not surprisingly, this gives the piece a poignant atmosphere, and the end result is undoubtedly affecting. It is far from heavy going, however, thanks to imaginative staging and an accomplished ensemble under the pin-sharp direction of Ian Brown.

Central to this is the endlessly puckish Tam Dean Burn, whose Skipper functions as a narrator figure, and the link between journalist Shona (the impressive Sophia McLean) and the community she left as a child.

Shona’s search for the truth about a father she never knew causes her to interact with the other performers, who act as a chorus as well as playing discrete characters. This, along with a constantly shifting time scheme, could prove disorienting, but the rigour and craft of the acting and directing avoid any such confusion.

elegantly displayed

A cast of distinguished Scottish theatrical faces includes Jennifer Black and Gerry Mulgrew as Shona’s grandparents, Ali Craig as her father and an excellent Andy Clark as her financially-driven uncle.

Helen McAlpine and Tam Dean Burn. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

The dangers of the job, the strictures of poverty and the drawbacks of blindly chasing profits are all elegantly displayed by some rounded characterisations, with Kim Gerard and Helen McAlpine as Shona’s mother and aunt particularly fine.

Thoren Ferguson, meanwhile provides live fiddle for Pippa Murphy’s wonderfully effective folk-derived soundscapes. The music here is particularly good – failing to draw attention to itself, always at the service of the story. The singing, in particular, that can intrude in such productions, is here used sparingly and with real force. This, along with Karen Tennent’s starkly clever design and Katherine Williams’s lighting, gives the piece an atmosphere that is forbidding yet harshly beautiful.

The lighting is a little on the sepulchral side at times, and the full-length nature of the play does lead to a lop-sided structure – the first half too crammed, the second too stretched – but these are minor concerns when everything else is so beautifully considered.

Running time 2 hours 15 minutes including one interval
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ.
Monday 20– Wednesday 22 May 2019
Daily at 7.30 pm
Tickets and details: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/lostatsea


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