Saturday, August 21, 2010

Edinburgh: Our Share of Tomorrow at the Pleasance Courtyard

Daniel Sherer’s debut play is a layered piece of writing that only reveals itself slowly. Cleo, a young Irish girl, is on a journey, driven by need. Her mother has just passed away and she’s searching for the father she has never known. She’s not seeking reunion or rescue, but it’s important to her that she meets him.

Tom is a quiet, reclusive type, a man still hung up on Grace, the girl he once loved fifteen years ago. When he first sees Cleo coming towards him on the beach he recognises her, but only because he can see her mother’s face in hers. Both people have holes in their lives that the other cannot fill. But that doesn’t stop them from longing.

Following the loss of her mother, Cleo’s only anchor in the world is John, an older man, ex-army type, divorced with a teenage daughter who he no longer speaks to or sees. He’s drawn to Cleo, wanting to protect her, to shield her from a world he views as hostile. John is instinctively wary of Tom, threatened, aggressive. The two men clash.

Sherer takes his time shaping this triangle of relationships. Following an evocative opening in which Tom stands stripped to the waist and lashed to his boat by rope, awaiting the waves, the play begins with the pivotal meeting between Tom and Cleo before flashing backwards and forwards to flesh out the characters.

The writing is subtle and shaded. Sherer’s play is one of considerable emotional charge and he’s not shy of ambiguity; he seems more interested in portraying the intensity of grief and the human need for connection than in spelling things out for his audience. He doesn’t, for example, ever reveal how Grace died, it’s enough to learn that it was not swift, nor was it easy; it’s also not really ever explained how Cleo came to be so entirely by herself or how long she’s known where to find her father. He’s confident enough as a writer to leave some questions unanswered.

It helps that the cast are capable. As Cleo, Tamsin Joanna Kennard is spirited and clear in intention; she’s a girl who’s been hardened by life and loss but, despite her shell, she is also still vulnerable and confused. Toby Sawyer is rather too young to fully convince as John, but his complex feelings towards Cleo are compelling portrayed, and Jot Davies is also engaging as the rather innocent and hopeful Tom, a man trapped in time, still dreaming of a girl from his past.

Though the production, by theatre company Real Circumstance, is not overtly physical, the use or movement and music add to the texture of the piece and the sequence in which the cast sing is skilfully handled and very atmospheric. The coastal setting is simply but effectively evoked through lengths of rope and planks of wood, and a softly illuminated backdrop manages to conjure both the setting sun and the weaving of waves.

For all it does well the production can be frustrating. Sherer’s ellipitical approach makes it difficult to get a grip on the characters and, while this may be intentional, the balance between what is revealed and what remains in shadow feels a little off.

Reviewed for musicOMH

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