A raincoated man bursts into one of two bunkers in the lower section of the Pleasance Courtyard. He fumbles around in the darkness before the lights come up and he introduces himself as Daniel Drench, Cornwall’s most prolific storyteller. The man - who repeatedly pleads with the audience to “come with” him with increasing desperation - is actually Dan Frost, the co-writer of Drenched along with Director Eddie Elks. What follows is a deep dive into forced friendliness and flat attempts at subversion but also truly special storytelling. It’s a mixed bag - it doesn’t know if it wants to be a backpack or a full-on case - but an excuse for a jaunt to the clifftops of Cornwall is still welcome; even if this background appears to be a vehicle for Frost and Elks’ subversive agenda.
It’s a mixed bag but an excuse for a jaunt to the clifftops of Cornwall is still welcome.
A sense of Cornish pride is instilled from the outset as we are warmly greeted with Cornish language and beautiful glints of Cornish musical tradition. The classic folktale The Mermaid of Zennor is related to us through a blend of storytelling, acting and mime as well as some aggressively repetitive gesturing including arm motions that seem to imply crucifixion. We meet Mathew Trewhella, our protagonist, and follow him on a journey of heartbreak and despair apparently crafted by Frost and Elks themselves separately from the original story before we hear the actual story. The tale is effectively conveyed with stunning moments but also junctures that seem more like black holes, sucking away precious energy. In several unexciting conversational scenes utilising an audio track to provide a second voice, Frost genuinely appears to have forgotten his words as the gaps between the lines are so long.
Indeed, as the piece sinks further and further into this suggestion of subversion it just gets more confusing. This is not to say there is no place for that style, but it just doesn’t really fit here. Inserting self-deprecating, self-aware gags about the show’s past reviews and abusive asides from Drench towards the audience, the lighting technician and the production team of Poldark feels misplaced. Frost’s post-show affirmation that he wasn’t actually berating the lighting technician is welcome in terms of settling the audience’s mind but shouldn’t be necessary. Perhaps the piece would have been more easily enjoyed were it to either commit to being a distinct and colourful retelling of its subject matter or a character comedy with an actually interesting character.
The problem with the play’s attempt to go further than just heartfelt storytelling is that the effectiveness of its best moments are hindered by the overall tone. There were also instances that were obviously lovingly conceived but seemingly devoid of meaning save for leading up to the next moment. Drench tells us that our story "isn't true, but it could be true". Similarly, Drenched has the potential to be deeply moving, but its eventual lack of care for the story means that we are eventually left pondering its significance or benefit at all.