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Lost at Sea

Perth Theatre
Four stars

Storm clouds gather from the off in Morna Young's new play, which takes a look at the devastating and often fatal consequences of the fishing industry on a community that once upon a time could get rich quick, but can so often be destroyed by its own success. The human cost of all this becomes clear through the figure of Shona, the young woman at the heart of the play seeking closure as she goes in search of answers to why her father died at sea when she was a child. As she bears witness to her own history, the testimonies she solicits offer no easy answers, but eventually lay bare a cycle of greed over need that points to an entire system that’s at fault.

A Greek-styled heart drives Ian Brown’s brooding production, as the cast of nine roll back the years to bear witness to the inevitable. In the wide-open gloom of Karen Tennent’s set, and beneath the foreboding flashes of Katharine Williams’ lighting, several generations of fisher-folk by turns confirm and dispel the wave-soaked mythology they are immersed in.

Shrouded in Pippa Murphy’s mournful fiddle-based sound design, played live by Thoren Ferguson, Young’s story sees Tam Dean Burn’s almost Dickensian Skipper act as a kind of celestial guide for Sophia McLean’s Shona. As her father, uncle and grand-father, Ali Craig, Andy Clark and Gerry Mulgrew reveal the different pulls of family ties, while the women, played by Kim Gerard, Helen McAlpine and Jennifer Black, must keep everything together even as they grieve.  

There is poetry, song and raw confessional here in a play that feels at times more like an everyday ritual than conventional drama. Part tragedy, part detective story, part purging and part hymn to a way of life caught in the crossfire of capital, what emerges from Young’s labour of love is both a personal meditation on loss and a show of collective strength that reclaims the landscape of an all too common shared history.

The Herald, May 1st 2019



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