Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Djupid (The Deep)
Jon Atli Jonasson
Venue: Assembly @ Assembly Hall
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
The life of a Scottish trawlerman is brought vividly and easily to life in this brief but compelling story of a disaster at sea. Liam Brennan gives a solo performance of courage and skill, keeping his audience hooked throughout a script packed with strong images. He tells a tale of ultimate hope amid fear.
There’s only one man onstage, with a chair, a table, some biscuits and a glass of milk, but that seems to be all Liam Brennan needs to power through his tale of a day in the life of a Scottish trawlerman. To say there’s very little change of set – or even lighting – the stage becomes a very versatile place, showing us his house, his village, the ship, the sea…anywhere this detailed script suggests to the imagination.
It’s a script very much in a Scottish idiom, which fits the story perfectly. The fact that the words themselves come near to drowning in Brennan’s accent forces our greater concentration on those words and the images they create. Here the black box space is used as it should be: a blank canvas for the audience’s imagination. In a similar way, the changes in lighting are subtle enough to merely shift eyelines though not concentration.
But I’ll be honest here: either there’s an idea in ‘Djupid (The Deep)’ that I didn’t understand or it just doesn’t work. I suspect the second option, perhaps arrogantly. Quite why Brennan needs to frantically eat biscuits representing his shipmates I wasn’t sure. Presumably this makes sense to somebody. If nothing else, you have to appluad how far he is wiling to stretch his mouth to fit in a whole digestive in one go.
Even though the only liquid Brennan gets covered in is his own sweat, he’s still able to effectively convey floundering about in the North Sea. Even as his warm body drips in sweat, the room has the chill of the ocean at night and his body has the shivers of approaching hypothermia. The near-hysteria in his eyes – understandable in a man struggling for his life – is the final touch to a commanding performance that maintains vulnerability with power.
One man’s quest against nature (see: Moby Dick) it isn’t, but by the end, I was willing Brennan to keep swimming and walked out with a sense of uplifting hope.