Ocean Going Idiot

Rob Coleman’s Ocean Going Idiot is less of a piece of theatre and more an hour’s friendly chat about a largely failed adventure in the top room of a pub. The room is extremely hot and some noisy ineffectual fans make it even less comfortable. Coleman’s laid-back welcome is a good start to what turns out to be a quite interesting story.

His tenacity and energy in the face of considerable adversity are apparent but only by reading between the lines of an overly self-deprecating account.

Explaining that he considers himself to be a completely daft obsessive wannabe Coleman tells the story of his various attempts to become an ocean-going rower. Giving us a brief account of his personal history which includes being bullied at school and finding it hard to get a fulfilling job, Coleman explains how the notion of becoming an adventurer took hold, following in the footsteps of modern romantic heroes such as Ranolph Fiennes and Patrick Leigh-Fermor.

His actual experiences sound horrendous, like all the bad parts of adventure with none of the triumph of success. He describes a doomed attempt to row from the Canary Islands to Barbados in a standard ocean-going rowing boat. What follows is a catalogue of errors including his doing absolutely no training for the challenge and picking a rowing partner whom he can’t stand. He then goes on to describe in graphic detail the gruesome effects of ocean-going rowing on the body, including showing some grim bottom rash pictures that are hard to forget.

Coleman’s story-telling style is slightly bland and his use of wonky laminates to illustrate the piece feels amateurish. He continually puts himself down and presents us with an image of him as a bumbling fool with a dangerous obsession that he can’t let go of. It’s laudable that he has the guts to present such a no-holds-barred account of his experiences but overall it’s fairly depressing to listen to someone be so brutally honest about their own shortcomings.

As the story continues Coleman does have some success. Despite being set back by exhaustion, depression and a life-threatening hip injury, he continues to pursue his dream of crossing the Atlantic and eventually does complete a shorter trip to Barbados. The piece remains fairly interesting but it would have been much better if had presented himself in a more positive light. His tenacity and energy in the face of considerable adversity are apparent but only by reading between the lines of an overly self-deprecating account; he does not give himself the credit he deserves. 

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The Blurb

Rob Coleman doesn't know his aft from his ebb tide, but despite two failed attempts has an unquenchable desire to cross the Atlantic in a rowing boat. What has he learned? Why does he have this obsession? What went wrong? Is he mentally strong enough? What's it like being in a small boat, thousands of miles from land, with one other human being? And just what is the correct term for the pointy bit in a boat? Join him on a personal, poignant and frankly ill-advised journey. A mostly true story, with some jokes.