Sea Fret

The division in our post-Brexit, post-truth Britain stems from the difference between people who can accept dramatic change, and those who cannot. I remember the words of one otherwise liberal leave voter: “Everything is just so different.”

Sea Fret is modern and relevant while being reflective on tradition and those who adhere to it. It’s about the past, the present, the future and the sea. And it’s very much worth a watch.

That division is at the centre of Tallulah Brown’s Sea Fret, playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington. Childhood friends Ruby and Lucy live in a town that is slowly being washed away by the sea. Lucy plans on going to college, and then wherever she feels like. But Ruby doesn’t want to go anywhere else, though she may not have a choice.

It leads to a play that starts as a rural English 2 Broke Girls and ends, well, darker. Brown introduces a tension between the adventurous, but home-grown Ruby and the better-behaved, more privileged Lucy, then finds out how deep those differences go, and how much strain it can put on their relationship.

Actresses Lucy Carless (Ruby) and Georgia Kerr (Lucy) sell that. Carless is making the transition from screen to stage, but does so brilliantly. She is the focus of attention whenever on stage, vivid and emotional. Together, her and Kerr tug heartstrings on simple matters, like kids realising that childhood friendships might not be forever. They are simply very genuine together.

The kids are joined by their parents, Jim (Phillippe Spall) and Pam (Karen Brooks). Though complete characters and competently portrayed, I was less interested in their scenes. My guess is it’s a generational thing; I’ll be looking for older critics making the opposite claim.

Sea Fret’s set is made up of a raised central platform surrounded by beach pebbles and occasional debris. It works, though I’d be intrigued to see what they could do with more resources. The sound of the ocean drifts through the speaker, making the location, as important as it is to the story, present on the stage. At other times the sound, led by designer Daniel Balfour, creates the atmosphere of a beach party, and there are some, as we say, bangers, on the list. In one instance, the music is accompanied by a superb strobe effect. Music comes straight from the actors onstage in choice moments. Sea shanties, led by the surprisingly sure-voiced Spall, are both thematically fitting and beautiful in their own right. It’s a nice choice by Brown, well handled by director Carla Kingham.

Sea Fret is modern and relevant while being reflective on tradition and those who adhere to it. It’s about the past, the present, the future and the sea. And it’s very much worth a watch.

Reviews by Bennett Bonci

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The Blurb

Rising sea levels are threatening the ground beneath her house but Ruby is wildly distracted. She wants one final blow out before her best mate Lucy leaves for Uni.

With the local community in favour of letting nature take its course, Ruby must choose: follow Lucy inland or stay and help her father hold back the tide.

SEA FRET is about erosion - the collapsing and falling in of the rock solids of friendship, family and home.

“Loving where you live with every bone in your body has got to count for something.”

Tallulah Brown’s latest play is a paean to her native Suffolk coastline, written with support from the Peggy Ramsay Foundation. Her previous play about female bullfighter Conchita Cintron, After the Heat we Battle for the Heart, was commissioned by VAULT Festival.

Directed by Carla Kingham (You’re Human Like The Rest of Them - Finborough Theatre, After the Heat We Battle for the Heart - VAULT Festival, No Border - Theatre503, Oxford Playhouse and Nuffield Theatre), and produced by David Ralf.