the fourth annual Camden Fringe Festival and, with an impressive 118 shows on
offer during the month of August, the enterprise has come of age. Like any
self-respecting fringe festival, the brochure boasts that "some shows will be
wonderful, some might be bad, a few will be weird, some will be quite average".
The Off-West End experience in a nutshell, in fact, and a fair echo of
Edinburgh. So far, so good.
and the Sea is a promising period piece where secrets of the past
return to haunt the present. Shades of late Ibsen in the title, but there's
surely going to be some contemporary resonance tucked under the bustle of this
mock-19th-Century frock opera?
not. Katherine Hayes's play is carelessly constructed and acted with variable
competence by its tense cast. Poor Vera (a plausible Ellie Lavan): some
splintered memory of childhood is ruining her life as Albert (Gavin Kerr) and
confusing visions of Charlotte (Amy Clarke) crowd in on her. What's she to do?
is thin gruel. I all but missed the reported depravity at the heart of this
tale, so stunted are the brief scenes that tumble over one another with scant
regard for exposition or character growth. The play deals with a young bride
haunted by repressed guilt but the script offers no emotional landscape,
preferring instead to take the quickest route from A to B. There is much talk
of ‘powders' (for the nerves, my dear), a modern teacup makes multiple
appearances and such action as there is favours the verbal over the visual.
directs with a sure eye for cliché. Catherine Cayman, who plays Albert's wicked
sister Joyce, cannot enter without bobbing a vague hand to dab her hair. As the
(apparently) dastardly Sir Pritchard, Brian Mitty's costume has watch pockets on
the waistcoat, so in go the thumbs. All in all, Ellida Wangel meets Jennet Humfrye for Festen lite – if
only Vera had stayed at sea