For an island race, we Brits are unbelievably insular. Historically we crawled from the sea and none of us live more than 80 miles from it. The salinity of human blood is, apparently, exactly the same as that of seawater. "It's not just big and wet, you know," says one of the characters in Making Waves, "it's home."
But, a home which constantly threatens to reclaim us, yet we live our lives as oblivious to it as if we were landlocked. Unless, that is, you happen to live in one of the 224 communities around our periphery which is host to a lifeboat station.
Scarborough is one such community and the lifeboat culture is in its bloodstream. Under commission from the Stephen Joseph Theatre Stephen Clark has written a very fine play steeped in that culture and director Daniel Slater - himself a former lifeboat man - has a faultless cast who give a superb account of it.
Mike (Geoff Leesley) is coxswain of his local lifeboat and his younger son, Luke (Neil Grainger), is following in the family tradition as a member of the crew. The boat is their religion, in accordance with RNLI regulations they live less than two miles from the boat and they are on 24/7 call, abandoning everything and everyone the second the maroon goes off for a ‘shout’.
When they go they leave their women to cope - Mike's wife (Charlie Hardwick), Luke's sister and girlfriend (Alison Mac and Niky Wardley respectively). All have been brought up to this and all accept it with different degrees of equanimity while secretly dreaming of other lives - a quiet cottage in Cornwall or scuba-diving in Thailand.
Into this brew as a catalyst arrives Sam (James Weaver), the eldest son who got out of the culture years ago and is now shouting loud in e-business in New York. Mike, ever the evangelistic patriarch, has all but disowned him and is profoundly mistrustful of the fabulous financial success of which he boasts; but they are all thrown into turmoil by his disruptive presence, as unquestioned loyalties are exposed and tested.
Clark's writing is tight and deeply researched, his imagery multi-layered and his vision multi-angled. It is undoubtedly significant that the play has emerged after a two-week workshop with actors (not those in this premiere production), funded by the Peggy Ramsay and Cameron Mackintosh Foundations and the Really Useful Group.
It is, finally, a play which speaks very directly to Scarborians, but one which ought to be seen and enjoyed - there's plenty of fun in it, not least a Village People parody, singing 'RNLI' for 'YMCA' - by audiences up and down the country.
- Ian Watson