Brighton Fringe 2013
Can You Hear Seagulls?
Venue: The Old Courtroom
"A couple are waiting for a representative from Beautiful Darkness to assist in their deaths. As they wait it emerges that although devoted to each other the closeness of their relationship may have stifled honest communication. An incident causes one to review the decision to die. Will the pact go ahead?" A play by David Pattison
This is a play about taking hold of the moment we fear isn’t our own, and making it out own. Penned by David Pattison (who also wrote An Unquiet Mind), this is a two-hander exploring an uncomfortable theme between an elderly married couple. Jim and Sal are waiting for someone to arrive. It soon becomes clear who (or what) that person is. And I am not going to tell you who or what in this review. You’ll have to see it for yourself.
Th is is a dialogue play, and the dialogue is all the more powerful in its context for being largely delivered in a naturalistic style JIm is almost understated in how naturalistic. Sal is played a bit more theatrically, and this makes for a bit of inconsistency in places, but it is only a minor thing in an hour that captures a relationship with a lot of truth and authenticity. That’s partly down to the writing, but a lot down to the two performances.
Waiting. Normality begins to surrender to the onset of the impending thing they are waiting for. Something is spoken about, something not named. We are in the build up, but there will be an aftermath after we have gone. It is only revealed more directly as the piece progresses.
This is a play about a couple who have earned the right to do what suits them.
A husband and a wife much much behind them, captured in memories, in albums and mementoes, but with so very little up ahead because this life has run its course.
Staging is simple, lighting a golden wash of sunlight through a window that is the fourth wall.
Occasionally the writer’s voice speaks too clumsily through the mouths of a couple whose interaction is largely characterised by a light touch. Then a heavy moment of philosophy comes through and feels a little too unhinged from the characters emerging before us.
Can we change the end? Can we become the architects of finality ? It’s all done simply and it is that pared back simplicity that is the piece’s strength – a dramatic, building tension rises over the hour, set in a normal living room.
At times pacing is uneven – there’s work to be done here as the play runs more times. In places it is pitch perfect with authentic silences, wry humour and lovely overlap that captures the familiarity of a couple who have spent many years together. But in a few places the silences feel a little to affected and the interplay looks a little too staged. But it’s largely very good dialogue that holds the interest and the level of tension. On occasion though, it feels a little muffled as a performance.
"I’m not escaping. I’m coming with you." It’s a very good script – harsh and tender in turns. This is a tale of a deed of darkness or a feel of light, or a deed of necessity – depending on your view, your values, your own ideology, This play has Brechtian qualities – throwing each of us back on ourselves, wondering whether we would… What would WE do ?
The problem with this piece is that it poses a lot of vital questions that embody a polemic that uses the characters for its expression but sometimes too deliberately, lacking subtlety.
More also needs to be done with the physical believability for the piece, for example of simple but important actions like coughing. It’s a big part of the piece’s authenticity and this is a weakness.
Overall this is a well crafted piece of theatre, very suited to a radio play. The material is handled with much care and poise. There’s heartbreak here but also love, loyalty and gentleness. It’s a play about facing death but also about the reality of living purgatory – of pain, of decline and of what happens when two become the wrong kind of one. Well worth seeing.