Review Round-up: Sink or Swim in Haymarket Sea
Off the coast near a village in East Anglia, a young man drowns in a wild storm, sparking off a series of events that changes the lives of the village’s residents, including the bullying aristocrat Mrs Rafi (Atkins) and the desperate draper Mr Hatch (Haig). The 14-strong cast also features Marcia Warren, Mariah Gale, Russell Tovey, David Burke and Harry Lloyd. The production is designed by Paul Brown, with lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Paul Groothuis.
Edward Bond has written over 40 plays, including Saved, which premiered at the Royal Court in 1965 and famously hastened the end of theatre censorship in this country. While Bond continues to write, however, disagreements with the Court as well as the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company have meant that his work has been largely absent from British stages since the mid-Eighties. This production marks the playwright’s West End debut.
First night critics had mixed reactions to Kent’s dusting off of Bond’s “strange East Anglian fable”. While some applauded the “abrupt oscillations between farce, comedy and despair”, others felt this production “swamped the play without trusting it to speak for itself”. Haig and Atkins were generally thought to provide “evidence of two major actors at work”, although there was some suspicion that they “should have been better than they are”. Many critics noted that staging the “in-yer-face” Bond at such a genteel address as the Haymarket felt incongruous and brought “images of square pegs and round holes” to mind.
- by Kate Jackson