Lost at Sea ambitiously intertwines verbatim and fiction to create a tragically ‘real’ depiction of the hardships experienced by coastal communities. Young’s passion for this subject is undeniably reflected in her work. She is not a stranger to the loss of fishermen, Young “hope[s], in some small way, that this work helps honour their memory”.
We are instantly struck by Karen Tennant’s ominous set design. Towering dark walls that divide to reveal ever more towering waves looming over the actors mounted on a tilted stage. The design is immersive and effective, complemented by the thoughtful lighting and seascape sound effects that punctuate the tone of the scenes.
The first act moved quickly. Witty repartee between the characters felt familiar, playfully and naturally integrating humour to balance the darker themes that emerged. Struggling against the financial strain, battling the bleak political landscape and the ever-present fear that any fisherman may not return from his journey, these themes darken the play considerably. Even Skipper, our comic Robin-good-fellow narrator charismatically played by Tam Dean Burn, could not always shed light on the hardships endured by these fishermen communities.
Characterisation is a certain forte for the script, extending to that of the sea. The sea is personified, becoming an omnipresent character in its own right. It is a formidable force to be reckoned with, represented by sound, the set, the lighting or even the bodies of the cast to interact with the characters. Each character is complex and believable, moving the audience with heartfelt monologues filled with true emotion. Only Shona, the naïve young daughter of a fallen fisherman desperate to uncover the truth of her father’s death, did not appear entirely favourable with the audience. Shona’s insensitivity to her predecessor’s pain led us to question the authenticity of her character, although her role was necessary to move the plot forward.
There are several moments leaving an evocative image imprinted in our mind’s eyes. The most unforgettable occurring at the end of the first act: two beams of light, one containing a solo fiddle-player, the second a drowned man surrendering to the sea are the last image we see before the interval blackout. It is a powerful sight, incorporating poignant music to mark an incident that would change the lives of all known to the drowning man.
At the interval, I was left wondering where they could possibly venture next with the narrative, the story seemed to be over. Act two displays the aftermath of losing a fellow fisherman, where there is very little light to clutch onto. A more intimate theatre setting may have made the experience even more immersive.
Nevertheless, the second act is a torrent of impactful grief. Paying tribute to the inexplicable deaths of many real fishermen, the play ends by reciting name after name of those taken by the sea. The seemingly endless list was reminiscent of walking through a memorial ground; at times the significance of these names lost all meaning, but I would soon be reminded of the tragic circumstances and once again overwhelmed by the sheer number of losses.
This is an ambitious, emotional and challenging piece of theatre, beautifully telling a somewhat unspoken story, and yet I left the theatre strangely unsatisfied, still questioning, why did the fishermen continue to do what they did?
PHOTOS: Capital Theatres