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Sea Life review at the Hope Theatre, London – ‘strange and uneven’

The cast of Sea Life at the Hope Theatre, London. Photo: Laura Harling The cast of Sea Life at the Hope Theatre, London. Photo: Laura Harling
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Coastal erosion wreaks havoc on a family graveyard in Sea Life, a strange and uneven play by Lucy Catherine.

Vicky Gaskin and Chris Levens play unnaturally close twins, Bob and Roberta. The siblings’ attempts to rescue their ancestors’ corpses from a collapsing cliff-top graveyard is a great jumping-off point for exploring how Roberta’s obsession with her family history has stopped her developing any interest in her own life. Catherine also draws a neat parallel between the faded glory of seaside towns and the peculiarly English obsession with an idealised, nobler past that it never quite had.

The play contains some interesting ideas and much winning black humour, but these ideas aren’t fully developed, with Catherine instead piling on further themes – independence, bad mothers, unrequited love – none of which get the attention they deserve. The play feels increasingly muddled and the twins feel as if they’re in a completely different production to their continually enraged older brother, played by a competent but fairly one-note Jack Harding.

While Matthew Parker’s production contains some well-observed details the shifts between highly emotive naturalism and stylised oddness are breakneck and add to the confusion.

The whole thing is crying out for a stronger dramaturgical intervention, as the play spirals out of control, growing increasingly frustrating and bloated as it strives for an emotional impact it never quite attains.

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Verdict
An abundance of interesting ideas get buried in this confused and confusing play set in a faded coastal town
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