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Brighton Fringe 2010

The Old Man and The Sea

Magpie Blue Productions

Venue: The Marlborough Little Theatre


Low Down

The tale of a man’s simple aim to catch a fish runs a lot deeper than water – if the sea has anything to do with it! A spiritual journey as well as a physical one, this is a tale that will pull at your heartstrings.



On entry to the Marlborough, we were confronted with three actors limbering up as if they were doing a theatrical warm up. The interesting thing about it was the fact that there were a lot of strange sounds coming out of this interesting opening to the piece. This set the scene for the most wonderful visual piece of theatre to hit this year’s fringe.

The set was simple, but extremely affective – a stepladder, drums, a strange looking barbed wire contraption representing a fish, small boxes and lots of different African looking instruments. All this contributed to not only the powerful symbolism of the old man’s journey, but created an extremely mesmerising soundtrack. This proved that you do not always need some intricate sound effects to create the sound of the sea or the dropping of pebbles, but get back to the basic roots of sound and music and you can have the freedom to create whatever you like and still have the same effects you want.

The acting between all three performers was mesmerising to watch also. They were equally as strong as each other, but each had their own pleasant qualities that were picked up on very quickly.

Bill Hutchens gave an insightful and heartfelt interpretation as the title role of the old man. He charisma as he talked to the young boy (played by Vernon Kizza Naumalo) shone through as he showed his true colours of being a hero of old. His use of silence showed his character to have a lot of power as the show progressed – especially when it came to talking with the sea and dealing with his inner demons as he went without water and food for days whilst trying to catch a fish. But it was his technique of mime that really struck me, because with very little set, he was able to make you believe that you were in a boat, hand wrestling with a bandit in his past and hauling in the big fish he longed to catch. It all added to the emotional and spiritual journey that we were all taken on by him.

The Young Boy was also very pleasant to watch. His youth and enthusiam in all he does is a key to the role, but it’s also the fact that Vermon was very flexible in his approach in his performance. Not only did he take on that role with vigour, but he also took on a demon inside the old man’s head and created a lot of the sound and music for the show. The baritone voice within his chanting gave a lot of solidarity and grounding in general, but it was the passion for what he did that was particularly significant – they say the eyes can show a window to the soul, his eyes showed a lot of soul indeed and drew us into his world as he became someone else. This is a young actor who will go far indeed.

But it was the sea who was the real star of the show. The only female of this strong and vibrant trio – Sara Atalar. Her stage presence as she chanted and entranced the audience became vibrant and a major focus point of the whole show. The saying that there’s no small actors, only big ones has never been so true! She took control as she made the old man’s image of the sea being a woman real. In fact, she unwittingly did more than this – using a constant power struggle with the old man and forming a friendship with the young man, she triggered the question what is fantasy and reality? Are the two really the same? But it was her unexpected emotional journey as her ‘baby’ was captured by the old man that hooked the audience in. She became like an overprotective mother and her downward struggle as he was captured and killed was fascinating to watch.

The lighting added to the whole thing as well in the sense of it being daring. Darkness on stage is usually indicating a change of scene or a black out to signify the end of an act. In this case, it signified ‘night’ to show a passing of time. But a lot of the show was performed in semi-darkness, which gave The Old Man and The Sea a lot of depth and a somewhat darker edge to it, which was needed.

A powerful show that will not only pull at your heartstrings, but will leave you wanting more.