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Edinburgh Fringe 2022

In The Weeds

by Joseph Wilde, Produced by An Tobar and Mull Theatre

Genre: Drama, New Writing

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

An aquaphobic marine biologist meets a mysterious local woman swimming in a loch on a remote Hebridean island, as he obsessively hunts for the sea monster that he believes drowned his family. This beautifully staged production from An Tobar and Mull Theatre touches on many themes and is interwoven with mythologies, but could ultimately dive a little deeper.


In The Weeds presents the audience with an intriguing first image. A man stands, making notes, lit from below by undulating blue and green light. This is Kazumi, a Japanese marine biologist who is hunting for sea monsters. At first glance he appears to be alone, but take a closer look and you will spot a woman lurking in the sunken pool before him. Coblaith – or Cob, as she prefers to be known – is a local woman whose family has been on the island for generations and who has a preternatural connection to the island’s many lochs and rivers. Soon she and Kazumi strike up a tentative friendship, which eventually becomes something more, as she shows him the hidden places on her island home in this new commission from Joseph Wilde, directed by Rebecca Atkinson-Lord.

This pool, designed by Kenneth MacLeod, forms the entire setting for the piece, with Carla Langley’s Cob frequently submerged, and Kazumi (Jamie Zubairi) moving tentatively around its edges. It is a smart piece of design, reflecting the themes of the piece, as the two actors are constrained by the water, much as the two characters are constrained by water in various ways in their lives. Benny Goodman’s pulsing lighting emanating from the edges of the pool adds to the eerie atmosphere and the use of the space under this walkway to store props echoes the myth of the selkie skin hidden away beneath the floorboards – a tale that Cob relays to Kazumi as they swap folk stories from their respective cultures.

Wilde’s script is ambitious in scope, using the stories of selkies, kelpies and kappa to explore many different themes: childhood trauma and the guilt that accompanies it; the human impact on our planet; who has the right to our land; the violence that men can do to women, but with such varied targets there is little time afforded to each unfortunately, and I found myself wanting the piece to dig into these elements more in order to create something really meaty.

Both Langley and Zubairi give good performances, with Langley capturing Cob’s defensive spikiness, born of being ostracised by the island community, particularly well. If they were given a little more time and material to develop the relationship between their characters then the twists, when they come, could be even more impactful.

Ultimately, this meeting of two cultures and the stories of sea monsters has great potential, but gets a little bogged down in the folklore at the expense of the wider themes present.