by Jesse Briton
Southwark Playhouse (The Vault) Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St and Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 22 October 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 25min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 September.
Another fine catch for Southwark Playhouse.
Young theatre companies come and go. But, on the basis of their first production, it would be a pity if Bear Trap theatre went. For it has a strong, individual subject, reflecting current times.
The men-in-peril scenario is given a new style of treatment as the fishermen of the Violet reluctantly undertake an extra trip, just when they’d hoped to be paid-off after the last one. But these are hard time and prices can’t be maintained.
A Polish worker, recruited through an agency, joins them. First considered a threat to local employment and pay-rates, it’s when others insist he be paid equally that he’s seen to have become one of the group.
The company they work for has grown to 15 boats, but is now down to one. Even nets are rationed. Desperate times need desperate, risky measures. How these work out in the howling storms provided by the sea and the personal conflicts on the voyage out, is the stuff of the show.
It’s told, and acted, with vigour. Laughter subsides into silence, anger rises naturally from the situation. Sea shanties, finely-sung, provide a reflective frame, but more often an invigorating transition between scenes. The necessary comradeship of a fishing-boat, along with its conflicts, is subliminally reinforced by Briton as director, with characters not in the action standing in the dark behind the acting area (standing being more energised, and less relaxed, than the more usual sitting of actors around the action).
Maybe this cast has some details to consider. Graduates of East 15 Acting School, notably its Acting and Contemporary Theatre Course (with Wimbledon College of Art strong on the design side – Buddug James Jones’ bare boards, wooden table and chairs being precisely right for the changing, all-male environment) they can’t quite field the age-span required.
And they need to accommodate themselves to Southwark Playhouse Vault’s acoustic in the more hectic moments, especially playing in a thrust layout.
Small points, though, beside play and production’s joint skill at drawing audiences in to the situation and characters. Thankfully, the play’s outward-bound again next year on a new, not-to-be-missed tour.
Kerdzic: Thomas Bennett.
John: James Crocker.
Graham: Joe Darke.
Alan: Alan Devally.
Rhys: Daniel Foxsmith.
Woods: John McKeever.
Director: Jesse Briton.
Designer: Buddug James Jones.
Lighting: Seth Rook Williams.
Music Director/Movement: Joe Darke.
Assistant director: Bryony Shanahan.