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Booby’s Bay review at Finborough Theatre, London – ‘a promising debut’

Joseph Chance, Oliver Bennett and Bradley Taylor in Booby's Bay at the Finborough Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton Joseph Chance, Oliver Bennett and Bradley Taylor in Booby's Bay at the Finborough Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Taking its title from a well known beauty spot on the Cornish coastline, Booby’s Bay is a bleakly comic character study infused with restless, righteous, but unfocused anger. The first full-length piece from writer Henry Darke, the play is packed with themes which emerge from the text like driftwood – beautifully formed but seemingly at random. Gentrification, ritual, the housing crisis, and the scars of childhood form a rich backdrop to the simple love triangle at the play’s heart.

It centres on unemployed fisherman Huck, played with jittery energy by Oliver Bennett, who successfully navigates the believable and thoroughly unlikeable protagonist’s contradictions. Idealistic but riven with guilt, philosophical but impotently furious, his half-hearted political occupation of an empty holiday home inevitably leads to tragedy.

Florence Roberts makes the most of two underwritten parts as both his lover, and the local bartender, while Bradley Taylor is compelling as complicated, keenly-observed Daz, the outsider turned local hero, spouting laddish bigotry one moment, turning sentimental the next.

Designed by Paul Burgess, the set is dressed in cool blue and sea green, decorated with stacks of reclaimed wood and brightly painted seaweed. Arnim Friess’ shifting lighting gives the stage a subaqueous murk which deepens between scenes.

Director Chris White fills the placid space with bold, high energy activity, his cast climbing the walls and dancing on countertops. Occasionally, they descend into ritualised movements, singing sea shanties, chanted mantras, and accomplished acapella vocalisations which all mingle with the bickering squawks of seabirds.

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Promising but muddled debut explores the public and private conflicts within a small community