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Sea Fret review at Old Red Lion Theatre, London – ‘promising and evocative’

Lucy Carless, Philippe Spalle and Georgia Kerr in Sea Fret at Old Red Lion Theatre, London. Photo: AF Photography

The Suffolk coast is almost a character in its own right in Tallulah Brown’s play. The salt-smack of the air, the wash of the waves; the writing is permeated with a sense of place.

Sea Fret tells the story of a friendship between Ruby, free spirited and sexually adventurous, and the more restrained Lucy. While the former, for all her wildness, is wedded to the pebbles, and has no wish to leave home, the other is from a more comfortable background and bound for university. They spend their summer happily raving on the beach, but they know they’re headed in different directions.

Though Brown’s writing is evocative and hits some sweet emotional notes in its later scenes, it suffers from a lack of narrative clarity in places and the historical and cultural significance of the concrete pillboxes that pepper the shore is not fully explained.

Some of the performances and the directorial decisions feel a little timid too. Brown has written a rich and complicated character in Ruby, but despite a decent debut performance from Lucy Carless, she’s not as vivid as she might be.

Brown is good at capturing the fleeting heat of adolescent friendship and the co-dependency of single parent/only child relationships, particularly between Ruby and her spliff-smoking, raggedy dad, but some of the more structural aspects of the writing could be tighter.

It looks a treat though. Designer Ruta Irbite has filled the Old Red Lion stage with beach pebbles, giving every step a clack and crunch, so that we never forget the proximity of the sea, its whims, its moods, and the hold it can exert over people.

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Promising and evocative new writing that suffers from a lack of narrative clarity