The Tide Jetty – by Tony Ramsey – Eastern Angles – last night at Kirton and touring
The Broads in Norfolk is a strange and beautiful place where I spent many happy holidays as a child while its strange landscape worked its magical fingers through my imagination. But how do you re- create the weird desolation of the marshes and the winding, calm canals juxtapositioned with the choppy expanse of Breydon Water on stage in a small village hall?
The answer is an ingenious and ethereal set designed by Jasmine Swan consisting of almost 3D landscaped backdrops and a movable wooden jetty, along with an atmospheric lighting design from resident stage manager Penny Griffin and some beautiful sound effects to conjure rippling water and the cry of the birds that inhabit the marshes.
Against this backdrop the four strong cast play out the story of an engineer – James Morton (Benjamin Teare) – who has arrived to work on a new quay with his wife Eliza (Laura Costello) , originally from the area, and his step daughter Annie (Megan Valentine) on the cusp of womanhood, who is looking to follow James into engineering but also longs to know more about her drowned father and what shaped her past.
It’s not long before Eliza becomes re acquainted with her old childhood sweetheart Tucky (Abe Buckoke) – now living in a rotting houseboat by the old Tide Jetty- and the story begins to unfold concerning their past life, a drowned brother and connections impossible to escape.
The Broads has a really interesting history – and the people who lived and worked there are fascinating. The problems with this play was that there was very little in the way of historical detail to allow us to place the plot in time or area if you didn’t know much about the Broads region – and although well executed – the story of these people was so slowly spun out that it was hard to get any pace from the action, such as it was , or to feel much for these characters who gave so little away.
It’s got to be said that the songs written by Chris Warner didn’t help. Although meant to convey atmosphere they in fact were so dirge like that they bogged the story down rather than add anything to it or move it along. And the continually shifting of planks of wood by the cast from one side of the stage to the other created irritation rather than purpose.
Having said that – the choreographed sequences (by movement director Simon Carroll-Jones) – especially Benjamin Teare’s opening as brother Nathan, were really well executed, and the accompanying music really did help to convey their watery world.
As far as the rest of the evening went – the cast did their best with a rather elusive script that didn’t give them an awful lot to work with. Megan Valentine was probably best of the bunch with a sensitive portrayal of daughter Annie – torn between two separate worlds, yet wanting to make her own mark. And it was a shame the accents were more generic ‘country’ rather than genuine Norfolk.
A brave attempt to create the Broads on stage – but a missed opportunity I feel to convey more about the history of the quay and the jetty – and more about the lives of those who lived there.