Lorraine & Alan
  • By Kyung Oh
  • |
  • 2nd Aug 2014
  • |
  • ★★★★★

Lorraine and Alan adapts an Orkney folktale about selkies - seals who shed their skin to become human - and places it in the contemporary world. The story begins with Alan, a fresh university graduate with a degree (a high 2:2) in marine biology. He is a character many would recognise today: lacking any ambitions in life, he’s moved back in with his parents and is happy to spend long hours into the night playing video games. One day during a lone trip to the sea, he finds a woman, Lorraine, stranded amongst a group of seals.

This is a sparkling show with superb acting from both Farrell and Sherrard.

Much of the play’s charm comes from humorous references to Lorraine’s origins as a seal. She pours an endless amount of salt into her drinking water, picks sardines out of the can with her fingers at the dinner table, and her finger tips are constantly wrinkled because she takes four-hour baths everyday. But, beneath these playful moments, a deeper running sadness develops in Lorraine’s character. She finds something increasingly unsatisfying in her relationship with Alan. He avoids introducing her to his friends (he doesn’t seem to have any friends) and he’s desperate to keep her, and himself, insulated from the world. It’s somewhat telling that with a degree in marine biology - a study of something as boundless as the sea - he has chosen to return to the middle of nowhere in Norfolk for a career in giving seal-tours.

However, the show doesn’t try to moralise or pass judgement. Indeed, even though Alan’s characteristics are typical of a possessive misogynist, Adam Farrell plays him in a likeable way - benign and feckless rather than jealous and commanding. Alan’s incompetence - his inability to realise his own stuntedness - is a source of pity in itself. Katie Sherrard gives an extremely skilful performance as Lorraine: doe-eyed, curious, and docile at first, she slowly falls deeper and deeper into despair as she yearns for the freedom of the sea.

The set is simply hundreds of plastic water bottles and buckets strewn about the sides of the stage. But, these are used aptly, and the poetic imagination is evoked very effectively by David Ridley and Becky Ripley, who sit at the soundboard adding comical interjections and commentaries to the events on stage. Even more effectively, the offstage duo also sing original compositions, (written by Ridley), to accompany the action. These folksy, harmonising tunes add immensely to the sad sense of time passing. And of course, the language of the script has moments of poetic energy. At one point, Lorraine, still naively in love, declares how Alan makes her feel: “grounded, anchored, beached”. She doesn’t realise the dark undertones of the final verb, but the audience picks up on it and watches it become true.

This is a sparkling show with superb acting from both Farrell and Sherrard. The design, music, and writing come together beautifully to deliver a seamless mix between mythological wonder and a rooted realism.

Reviews by Kyung Oh

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★★★★
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★★★★
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★★
theSpace on Niddry St

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Summerhall

Snoutology for Beginners

★★★★
C venues - C

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★★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Alan. 23. Recent graduate in Marine Biology. (High 2:2.) Son of Blakeney, Norfolk. Bedroom dweller and seal tour guide extraordinaire. One August, Alan discovers a young woman lying amongst the seals and their lives become irreversibly entwined. But who is Lorraine? Where does she come from? And why does she take so long in the bath? Lorraine & Alan is a modern retelling of the Selkie myth with live sound design, song and several hundred plastic bottles. It’s the recipient of the Charlie Hartill Special Reserve Fund for Theatre and is supported by Escalator East to Edinburgh.