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Edinburgh Fringe 2012


The Alchemist Theatre Company

Genre: Drama


 Zoo venues


Low Down

Inspired by the true story of Sealand this coming of age story is presented by a talented young cast who explore the pressures on two families who have left ‘broken Britain’ behind to start a new life. Only it isn’t quite as easy as they thought…


Inspired by the true story of Sealand (a sea-fort occupied since 1967 by a British family claiming it as an independent sovereign state) this coming of age story is set on a similar fort.  It isn’t however, the story of Sealand – in which a former Major set up a pirate radio station, took on the establishment and fought for independence. The play is set in the present day and the characters are not based on the Bates family who still live on Sealand.

We meet Ted and his followers who have left “Broken Britain” behind them. He envisages a simpler, happier life far from ‘broken Britain’ but hasn’t entirely grasped the risks involved in trying to create utopia with a disparate group of people including a recovering alcoholic and a sulky teenager.

There are two families, Ted, a widower with his 16yr old son, Alex, and Gary, Liz and teenage Sarah – who wants to go home and whose strops could win gold for GB! The play follows the relationships as they develop (or fall apart) and the group learn that living on a remote fort with only occasional trips to the mainland can mean limited supplies of things one took for granted on top of everything else.

Ted’s obsession is with establshing the fort as a legal entity and nothing must get in the way of that. As relationships disintegrate the play moves towards a surprising shift in power and an unexpected ending.

Sealand is written and directed by Luke Clarke with a cast of recently graduated drama students.

The standard of acting is high throughout with some particularly strong performances. There is plenty of humour and delightful witty moments contrasting with the frustrations of the new life for each of the characters.

The designer has come up with a neat set that makes the most of the small space and provides a good sense of the levels of the fort with ‘up top’ and ‘down’ – an inside space. The cast operate the shifts between the two without any break in the story. Overall it created a good feel of the claustrophobia of living in such a confined space. The cast moved easily about the limited space – no mean feat with five actors, quite a lot of oil cans and several fishing rods. The action moves forward briskly with no complex scene changes which can so easily kill the pace. A lighting change, a brief pause, a rearrangement of the set, and all in character, kept the pace (and our interest) up.

As one who has heard of Sealand but knew little of the detail I wasn’t sure whether I was watching a recreation of historical events or not. A simple programme with a little background to both the real Sealand and the play might help to avoid any potential confusion.

The writer’s choice to have two families, with three middle aged characters and two younger ones made the play harder for a young cast and it took me several scenes to work out the familial relationships. Given that the play wasn’t trying to recreate historic events the same themes could have been played out within a group of young fort dwellers.  After all, it isn’t only the middle aged who can be unrealistically idealistic!

Overall, this is an enjoyable and imaginative exploration of searching for utopia presented by a talented young company.


Show Website

 An imaginative look at the search for utopia...