I’ll give it one factor: over an hour into this infuriating two- hour play there’s a quick however great half for the veteran June Watson. She stumps in with octogenarian dedication from the moody seascape window on the again (the lighting is among the heroic achievements of the present, dusking and dawning at quick unpredictable intervals). Roaming around the middleclass holiday-cottage kitchen island, she delivers in aggravated tones an account of how she is a seal – the mysterious silkie-woman of northern legend. She got here ashore years in the past wooed by a person, however when she shed her seal pores and skin for lovemaking the bastard hid it, thus holding her doomed to be his slave and without end tolerate exile ashore “cooking cleansing washing fucking carrying bearing…” and by no means getting again to the ocean.
Its a advantageous speech, lyrical and vigorous, a bit Dylan Thomas, and superbly rendered. If we hadn’t all been numbed by the previous 70 minutes, we would have given Watson an exit spherical and a rousing cheer.
Her listener, the younger man Mark, isn’t any assist on the lookout for the pores and skin, although all through the previous impressionistic and irritatingly magical-realist script he has been probably the most grounded of the personae, doing the cooking. He even, at one level, observes that Sarah, companion of the elusive matriarch Shirley, ought to not encourage the pregnant younger Georgia to chain-smoke and drink a lot. The youthful sister Toni – supposedly 22 – lives full time in pyjamas and is given any variety of gnomic remarks and unlikely reactions. Honour to Grace Saif for making the wretched child nearly convincing . All of them do a little bit of this witchy-fey uttering, the coy femaleness of it at instances enraging. “When the menopause got here she may solely paint lobsters”. Or “generally I burn nations”.
All of them hold coming again to an absent character, Robin. Possibly drowned and gnawed by lobsters; possibly she’s a psychological affected person. Possibly her soul was stolen in the future by a scream and borne away on a paper boat. Possibly she’s prone to come again any minute; although was mud. OK, OK, possibly it’s all a meditation on grief. Probably the ineffective Toni actually has studying disabilities, and outdated Shirley has dementia – which might clarify the invisible seals she sees which had been truly years in the past in Eire.
Although cling on, she is studying Mark’s PhD for him. So possibly not all that demented. Oh, and there’s a fisherman, saying stuff like “there’s a storm coming”. As fisherman do. In performs.
. We aren’t meant to make certain of something, however the writer isn’t any Florin Zeller. What we do know is that this infuriating, selfconsciously poetic piece was written by Cordelia Lynn throughout a 4 week writers’ “residency” in America. And that it’s immaculately acted and offered, with all of the ability of this downstairs house which has seen a lot actually good things prior to now 12 months. It feels a waste of it, and of Hampstead’s courageous mission to search out new writing.
Field workplace hampsteadteatre.com. To 29 april