Writer: Joseph Wilde
Director: Rosy Banham
Reviewer: Dan English
The Pier, the second offering from HighTide Escalator writer and BBC Imison Award Winner Joseph Wilde, makes a splash at the Marlowe Studio this week.
Set in an unknown but familiar declining British seaside town, the lives of six individuals intertwine on the pier, all of whom are influenced, in some way, by the murky sea that rub beneath and in front of them.
What is compelling about this production is that while the set (designed by Gracie Smart) remains simplistic, merely two parallel strips of wire with a handful of light bulbs on each and audience seating on either side, the complex and believability of Wilde’s writing puts the spectator right on the pier with the characters.
Cassandra Bond and Lizzy Dive are tremendous as Stash and Rose respectively. Stash and Rose find themselves using the sea as comfort in their own ways, although the latter is hoping to convert the comfort into a watery grave, despite to put an end to a life she feels is a burden. Bond’s sickly teenager, and science lover, Stash tirelessly attempts to prevent the overweight and wheelchair bound Rose from dropping off the pier, displaying great physicality in clinging onto Rose’s mobility scooter. Bond deserves particular commendation for the remarkably consistent stammer she executes in this piece, with our frustration of her stammer mirroring her frustration of her own situation, and of course, of preventing Rose’s demise.
Charlotte Mulliner and Kristian Philips perform loved up Chloe and Dan respectively; two characters who have known each other from birth, yet the former longs from a life away from the seaside town, much to her grounded partner’s despair. Chloe, a wannabee oceanographer, has her university hopes stifled by ‘yokel’ boyfriend Dan. Their relationship is wonderfully choreographed, simply by having Mulliner sit on Philips’ shoulders for most of the production, only separating as their relationship begins to crumble, which does tire the production somewhat. Their relationship evokes issues of class divide in towns, as well as a discussion as to why perhaps seaside towns are crumbing in the UK, because, as Dan tells Chloe, because of “people like her”.
Grandma and granddaughter pairing of Wendy and Michelle, portrayed by Tina Gray and Remmie Milner respectively, take a different approach to the other stories played out on the wooden jetty. The stormy night is a perfect setting for Wendy, who wishes her granddaughter, hopeless romantic Michelle, to continue a watery family ritual. What follows is a heart-warming tale of wartime love and loss, with Gray perfectly retelling the history of the town, and being a figure for what once stood proud. Michelle’s character as the useless but eventually worthwhile teenager may be cliché, but the delivery of Milner shows clearly her devotion for her forgetful nan.
Wilde’s writing and Rosy Banham’s directing produce a believable band of characters for this production, making it the insightful and thought-provoking piece this is. The staging is striking, as the traverse theatre allows the characters to interact with the audience (Lizzy Dive particular excels), yet show how the paths of these characters cross, despite perhaps not knowing it. It is an important piece of theatre showing how something so simple can be so effective. This play questions science and our purpose, yet sets it beautifully in a struggling seaside town; something we can all relate to. Wilde’s show fizzes by, almost as quickly as our seaside heritage is disappearing.
Runs until 23rd January 2015