Judy Seall’s Splinters is a strangely warm gothic Victorian tale, a warmth that emanates from the bonds between the members of the cast.
A poignant piece, this show is truly a marvel
Bound by battles they should not have to face, the Coram siblings recount their tale, from the loving home that was taken from them to their journey to the foundling hospital, where their life is only marginally better. More than a hundred years later, one of their descendants Nate (Matthew Marriott) explores the foundling hospital for some connection to his great-grandfather, Edward (Jamie Thorogood). This show is about children who have been abandoned by the system, and the strength and bonds that they have had to find with each other. The parallel created between the Corams and Nate just shows that even though things have seemingly gotten better since the Victorian period, there is room to improve the system. We don’t know what happens to the foundlings, we just have their names in a register. But represented in Nate and Scout (Luisa Aguilar Young) we can see that these descendants are the further living proof that these children existed and hopefully went on to better things.
This show is interesting, because there is a touch of ambiguity over the entire show. Whilst the children collectively tell us their story directly, the two parallel storylines suggest that we are seeing the ghosts of the Coram children through Nate’s eyes, whether this is his story, so we do have to question whether we are truly seeing them as they are, or whether the story they’re telling is just a conjuring by a boy desperate for family. Whilst there are points where the plot and connections are genuinely not clear, these moments are few and far between.
Even though the Dolphin Youth Theatre is an all children’s theatre group, the absence of adults in this tale is palpable, which does create a sense of discomfort. Even though a large part of the cast work together in an 11 children chorus, each character stands out with their quirks and habits, their individuality clear and separate from the collective. They can also adapt well to unforeseen and unfortunate bumps in the road. For example, when Aimee-Leigh Zietsman (Step Mother) accidentally tripped on her skirts and fell during a particularly tense moment, she and Thorogood smooth things over and re-direct the dialogue to better fit with the events that we see.
Only the hardest of hearts would not feel for the characters within this play. A true marvel, moments of grief are uplifted with the occasional bout of humor and childlike care-freeness. A poignant piece, this show is truly a marvel.