NIE – Tales from a Sea Journey
The Junction, Cambridge
Review: Richard Smith 16 March 2011
Diversity equals richness in this warm (if flawed) show.
Tales from a Sea Journey is the new show from NIE which recounts their epic adventure aboard a cargo ship travelling from Le Harve to Guadaloupe and the stories that emerge during the voyage.
It focuses on three particular characters; Ella, the little girl who falls into the sea, Elizabeth the maths teacher whose first ocean voyage leaves her feeling worse for wear and the Captain of a Norwegian Navy vessel that is sunk by the Japanese during World War Two.
As ever with NIE the sense of ensemble is very strong, the performers invest fully in even the smallest of actions and their focus as a collective is absolute. Narration is kept lively and interesting as they tease out the comedy from the most mundane of moments, undercutting and commenting upon each others narration before plunging head first back into the story.
There is a wonderful texture to the show which is forged by the mix of different languages and by the bed of folk music and sea shanties that emerge from the ocean sounds and underscores the action. NIE lead the way in showing how so much can be created from so little, consistently striving to use every one of the different tools available to theatre that make it unique. Puppetry, live music and singing as well as skilful manipulation of props are all employed to create a rich piece that conjures a world you wish to explore with these characters as your guides.
If there is a problem with the show it is that the stories, though always entertaining, are a very light weight, lacking the resonance and depth of myth and fable. The story of Elizabeth, for instance, peters out without us ever gaining any real insight into her life or character and the scene of a tongue tied father saying goodbye to his daughter is played for laughs when it might have been more rewarding to explore the moment of desperate hesitation before they part.
In the end the separate strands of the journey on the cargo ship and the tales that they tell each other fail to tie together in a way that completely satisfies. However this is still an engaging and enjoyable piece that you can not fail to warm to.
Elke Laleman (and Production Manager)