Frogman

Frogman is an oceanic coming-of-age drama split between two time frames. Meera, an adult and coral ecologist on the Great Barrier Reef, is detained by police for questioning on the role her father (the eponymous Frogman, the name for a police diver) might have played in the disappearance of a young girl called Ashleigh many years ago. During the interrogation, suppressed thoughts and feelings emerge while (previously thought to be) established history begins to corrode; this piece of theatre is a study of memory, childhood and our relationship with the sea.

A production of rare skill and beauty: despite its high-tech form, the storytelling remains simple, deep and exquisite.

But Frogman is more unusual than this summary would have it seem – the live performance is intercut with passages of virtual reality film. The performance space is a rectangular stretch of sand around which a single row of swivelling chairs is placed. Already an engaging set-up, each chair comes with a pair of headphones and a virtual reality headset. The live performance takes place on the sand; Tessa Parr as Meera is the only actor, switching between responses to the recorded voice of a detective and responses to her own subconscious. But then, at clearly signposted intervals the audience is to wear the VR headset, at which point we are given glimpses of Meera’s childhood and recordings of the Frogman diving in the Coral Sea. Those concerned that the inclusion of VR sounds like a cheap gimmick need not worry – the technology is incorporated seamlessly and improves both the structure of the piece and the experience of the event generally. Jack Lowe’s cinematography in the diving scenes is spectacularly vivid, and the full submersion in Meera’s past helps you understand the character with an otherwise impossible depth. What could merely be an easy tool for the sake of impressing audiences is here used with sensitive insight – and it must be added that the cast of children in the VR fragments are entirely convincing, each presenting subtle and mature performances.

All of this is not to detract from Tessa Parr’s live performance, which is brilliantly pitched and quietly captivating. Parr, fully holding the stage, allows us to feel both her anxiety and strength as the climax builds; especially engaging are her memory-monologues, delivered with flair and touched by a sense of the unreal.

In Frogman,Curious Directive have created a production of rare skill and beauty: despite its high-tech form, the storytelling remains simple, deep and exquisite.  

Reviews by Sam Fulton

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

The Great Barrier Reef, 1995. Meera is 11. It's her first sleepover. Strawberry Dunkaroos, Sega Mega Drive and coral fragment analysis descends into torch-lit storytelling from sleeping bags. Lights off. In the corner, Meera’s aquarium is beginning to glow. Outside over the reef, the Frogman hovers, looking for traces of a missing child. As police search lights refract through the ocean, the annual coral bloom is due, creating an underwater snowstorm. Time is running out. A coming-of-age, supernatural thriller, this is a ground-breaking, world-first theatre experience, experienced in VR headsets from double Fringe First award-winners, curious directive.

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