Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Using props such as welly boots and fishing crates to great effect, this company have created something theatrically inventive and interesting but also lacking as a whole.
The Harbour is a gracefully worked telling of a well known Selkie story about a seal who is found by a fisherman and comes to live with him. She bears a child and lives on the land with his acerbic mother while he is out fishing. She yearns for the sea but doesn’t quite know why because her skin has been removed without her knowledge. Then she finds it and is called once again to the ocean.
The strengths of this show lie in its kinetics. The three performers use welly boots to portray things like waves, seagulls and fish, and these are delightful to watch. A rope is struck from the ceiling to off stage as the fishing boat, and I particularly enjoyed the creation of the baby and child using a shawl and a raincoat. The seals are also wonderful to watch. And this company are very good at evoking a sense of place on stage.
What doesn’t work so well are the characterizations. Ben Samuels as the old fish wife inhabits his character to such an extent that is not totally comfortable to view, becoming more of a cartoon character. The heightened physicality of a stooped over, cantankerous presence is slightly creepy and doesn’t sit so well with the more sesitive performances of Sarah Johnson and Will Pinchin. Not to say Samuels doesn’t play her very well – it’s the fact that he does it too well – so instead of a lighter comic character it becomes something more caricatured. Perhaps it would work better if an actual woman played the character.
Another thing is that Pinchin doesn’t have much of a character to play with, and it becomes more about the relationship between the seal woman and the mother. I would have liked to have seen more of an exploration of the human/seal woman relationship. Sarah Johnson has a lovely stage presence, and the moments we do get between her and Pinchin are lovely and poignant.
These performers are very good and they have developed a unique style of physical theatre. Perhaps with more focus on the quieter moments and with more toned down performances, as it is the kinetic qualities of the show that are excellent and the show is worth seeing for them alone.