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Lost at Sea review at Perth Theatre – ‘evocative, atmospheric, mesmerising’

Andy Clark and Ali Craig in Lost at Sea at Perth Theatre. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

Although broadly a work of fiction, Morna Young’s play about the fishing communities of the North-East of Scotland contains a rich documentary quality which is emphasised by the truth and the nature of its telling.

Lost at Sea is in part Young’s own story, telling of a woman who lost her father in an accident on a fishing trawler at sea, as she herself did in reality. In the play, Sophia McLean’s journalist Shona returns to the fishing village of her youth to interview family and old friends of her father Jock, in an attempt to dig away at the circumstances of his death and her suspicions of foul play.

If there’s a rich authenticity in the use of the Doric Scots dialect of rural Aberdeenshire, it’s compounded by the verbatim nature of the piece. The story may be fictional, but many of the words are those of real-life interviewees, bringing a depth of feeling and honesty to this snapshot of a very masculine and whisky-fuelled culture amid the North Sea fishing boom of the 1980s.

Alongside the Cain and Abel story of two fishing brothers, however – Ali Craig’s Jock, innocent and loyal to the family dream that they own a boat together, while Andy Clark’s Kevin is driven by the riches to be earned – director Ian Brown’s play is as much about the women left behind; the wives, mothers and daughters living by the maxim “if the father goes to sea, the family just follows.”

On a bare stage brought to life by Katharine Williams’ atmospheric lighting, a score as understated as lapping surf by Pippa Murphy, and delicate, undulating choreography by Jim Manganello in which the nine-strong cast themselves become the fatal waves, Tam Dean Burn’s salty, mythical Skipper leads us through a mesmerising work with all the elegiac qualities of a long-lost memory.

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Morna Young’s deeply personal play brings the fishing communities of North East Scotland to life in evocative style.