Flotsam at King’s Head Theatre
Emerging writer Claire Erasmus offers dramatic food for thought in the one-off show Flotsam, directed by Evy Barry, at the King’s Head Theatre.
The calming lullaby of the tides reaching the shore and the far cry of seagulls resound in the background as a faltering Jo (Jennifer Aries) takes centre stage. She tells fragmented memories of a broken childhood, while a suicidal thought becomes stronger in between sips of alcohol and puffs of a cigarette. The entrance of the apparently radiant Ann (Ciara Pouncett) couldn’t be more timely. After an abrupt start, the two women learn about each other’s backgrounds. With very different attitudes to life, they both have motives to make the last jump and disappear definitively into the sea. But only one of them actually makes that final step.
The profound loneliness of the protagonists is tangible. However, the plain monologues, the straight narrative of the facts – which has the impression of being read from a book – and the absence of a further analysis of the personalities involved, all fail to create empathy with the audience.
The cosy venue of the King’s Head Theatre is the only guarantee for a more personal atmosphere, even with the setting established on a beach.
Nonetheless, the sharing of grief – which has the potential to lift the sufferer and reveal a redemptive story for the listener – provides the powerful message at the heart of the play. The theatre-goers are faced with touching stories that invite us in and attempt to remind us of the importance of being open and reaching out.
The drama of the past and its effects on the women’s present are also at the core of the script. As the whole piece pivots on talks on a bench, the text becomes key. However, the lines do not significantly develop the narratives that cross and intertwine on the stage. Pouncett delivers a very good performance, but apart from her sweetness and an endearing clumsiness, the character remains static. How Ann succeeds in helping Jo out of her depression, where mental health therapies and long-standing friends failed, is difficult to understand.
The characters in Flotsam lack a certain depth which would make the whole production more realistic and less of a stereotyped story of salvation simply determined by good luck.
Flotsam was at King’s Head Theatre on 8th September 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.