‘The Sea Project’ written by Elise Hearst, directed by Paige Rattray and produced by 'Arthur' productions is a fairly strong offering currently showing at the Stables as part of the Griffin Independent season.
It centres around the story of Eva, who washes up on the shore, haunted by a past she can’t remember. Starting over with local softly spoken, simple and safe Bob, she starts to rebuild a new life until the mysterious Maciek appears and starts to force Eva’s memories into her present and disrupt her new stability.
This is the first production directed by Paige Rattray I’ve seen and I have to say, I’m impressed. Whilst the play gives her some pretty good material to work with, Rattray has ironed over some of its kinks with her exceptional cast and David Fleischer’s beautiful design. Hearst’s play has a terrific first 20 minutes and a strong finish. We’re intrigued by the mystery of Eva (Meredith Penman) and the blokey heroic likeability of Bob (Iain Sinclair). Once Maciek (Justin Cotta) enters, the threads of the play start to slightly unravel without tying them up completely. The play has great ideas but they just haven’t fully solidified yet.
If there are weaknesses in the play, it is when there are more than two characters on stage at once. Hearst hasn’t quite mastered the tension of the trio like she has in some of the powerful moments of the duologues.
But all of this is forgiven as the cast deliver a quality performance. The contrast of energies, mannerisms, accent, rhythms- all tightly honed with good direction. I fell a little in love with Sinclair’s Bob. He encapsulated the steady masculinity of the Aussie working-class man. It’s the stuff of Jimmy Barnes songs: raw, honest, heroic, inarticulate bloke- as opposed to Maciek’s high energy, creative, passionate and verbose dreamer. Young Samuel (Travis Cardona) lies between the two- waiting for his dream and direction to wash up on the shore. He is undeveloped but there is a sweet innocence about Samuel in Cardona’s portrayal that makes him likeable. Amongst all of them and tying them together is Penman’s Eva, who bends to each, shaping her empty past in adapting to each of their present needs and desires. Penman knocks this one of the park. She is a terrific actress.
Add to that a great design by Fleischer- surrounding the stage with reflective tiles, mirroring our ‘twin’ selves, our identity, the water and the depth of what lies buried under the layers of our everyday. Fleischer has created a simple yet very effective tool for this intimate rough theatre space to enhance the ideas of the play.
The live music was also a great touch. Tom Hogan’s accompaniment and interaction with the characters really added to the mood of the piece- sometimes playful, sometimes sombre and soulful. His soundtrack of music beautifully underscored the shifts in narrative and mood with skill and appropriateness.
The choices made by Rattray and the team gave this play the best outing it could hope for. I’m giving it a SOYP thumbs up.