Originally published on Reviews Hub
The sea can be a life-changing catalyst for both good and ill. It allows us to meditate as we drift along it, but can also create life-altering destruction. It’s little wonder that the sea has provoked awe and wonder over the course of our history and been immortalised by poets and artists for as long as creativity has existed. From Iris Murdoch to Shakespeare, it has very rarely been far from our thoughts. In Transport Theatre’s sleepy elegiac new play, set in the not-too-distant future, two vastly different individuals are brought together by the pull of the sea; a migrant looking to escape his small coastal village in India and an undistinguishable young woman aiming to swim the channel.
The idea running at its centre is promising and the language is as elegant and poetic as the visual imagery that has been created in Douglas Rintoul’s production. However, it lacks dramatic momentum, there is little conflict created and the whole drifts with a sleepy rhythm. Even at 75 minutes it’s a challenge to fully focus on it. With limited incident, we are further hindered from getting emotionally involved by the actors telling their story in the third person, with an easy-going naturalism that makes us comfortable in the performers’ presence but never pushes on to make us feel. One can cope with theatre that fails, with young companies still trying to find their voice, or those that aim high and land short; what’s harder to forgive is accomplished companies whose work plays safe and consequently drifts into tedium.
Tim Lewis plays the immigrant with boyish charm and a warm voice but is under-pitched. Balvinder Sopal is better, more solid, more engaging, a surer storyteller. The play begins with the two of them introducing themselves and delving into a discussion about where their ancestors come from, a reminder that the sea plays a part in all our lives and history. Yet the sheer awe and fear of the sea never comes across in a production that drifts rather than propels.