For those who grow up by the coast, the sea has a mighty pull. Swimming off the jetty, watching the tide roll back across the vast, winkle studded mud flats of the Estuary. I can smell it now. If, like Lorraine, you are a Celtic mythical seal-woman, the ocean is eventually going to draw you back, no matter how much you love Alan, or your boy.
Bucket Club’s cleverly staged, disarming play is a proper treat. It takes a simple romantic premise (boy meets girl, parents disapprove, baby is born, dad dies), but makes the girl a Selkie and thus spins it into something beyond the everyday. No happy endings here.
All the mechanics of the production are on stage for us to see, with Becky Ripley (co-writer with Nel Crouch) and David Ridley (sound designer) providing sound effects, commentary, a wonderfully passive-aggressive mum and quiet dad. A slowly ticking clock evokes the living room, the grating of knife against fork backgrounds an embarrassingly silent meal. The musicality is seamlessly integrated into the action and some perky songs, beautifully sung, move the story along. I’ve seldom seen it done better.
Katie Sherrard as Lorraine (named after Lorraine Kelly off the telly) conveys essence of seal in just a mucky anorak and has an emotional intensity beyond caricature. Young marine biologist and seal fanatic Alan never questions her ‘otherness’ – the over-salty food, the lengthy baths underwater breathing through a straw, the fondness for being nude. It is a warm and rounded performance by Adam Farrell and they both negotiate skilfully a set comprised of plastic bottles.
If the plot leaps ahead rather too quickly, to parenthood, dad’s death and Lorraine’s unhappy lot, the action is always engaging and the key relationship well drawn. There is great economy and inventiveness in Nel Crouch’s direction and in the text, which is naturalistic and funny: ‘Leamington Spa! You have brought me to the most landlocked town in Great Britain.’
Finding Lorraine’s ‘skin’ in the attic seals her fate (sorry, that’s an Alan-type pun) and there follows a nicely unpresuming ending to a playful and enjoyable hour.