The 8th Wave opens strong: two men on stage, the younger one tied to a chair, the older one eating. It is an intriguing tableau from which we discover two lives, different yet similar, which have accidentally crossed paths.

The play by James Ernest was the runner up at the Soho Young Writer’s Award and is presented by Disturbance, a new writing company established by Don McCamphill and Nick Rushton.

It’s a slow starter and the young man Matthew seems suspiciously calm for someone tied to a chair while he listens to Brian’s lecture. There is an indication all is not well when Brian demonstrates an interesting approach to help Matthew pee. Apart from this though, you wonder why Matthew, as a much fitter man, doesn’t just get up, chair and all, and leave. However, when the façade finally breaks, it explodes: the audience is squirming in their seats. An excellent Francis Adams gives Brian a believable edge but even better is his touching simplicity, which unfolds during the play.

He is just a simple man with the simple wish for a happy life. Brian has concluded from the papers that the police don’t care about people. He wants to help Matthew, teach him that you cannot break into someone else’s shop but he is unsure how to do this. He decides to tell Matthew about his childhood, his parents but Matthew has a similar story of his own.

Alex Payne makes the most of the slightly detached and angry Matthew, who never fully shows himself. An unexplained illness that resulted in a dislike for doctors, an unhappy childhood despite a younger brother he adores: they’re just snippets. His motive for his breaking into the shop is also unclear: a link to a childhood memory, the obvious boredom, but the offer to look after the shop when Brian indicates he is going on a trip, seems far-fetched.

Though their similarities are clear, the audience has to make a leap of faith when Matthew is untied becomes Brian’s confidante. The story going in and out of realism and surrealism doesn’t help this confusion. Like waves, great scenes keep rolling in between lulls but the pace and the story is lost.

During the end I expected lights out several times, and perhaps it would have worked better on film, where the symbolism would have impacted even more.

Reviews by Clarissa Widya

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The Blurb

Brian’s little world revolves around his shop, a business built up from nothing. Lonely and unmarried, somewhat at odds with the world, his self-righteous world-view cadged from the Daily Mail, he believes in things as they should be, not as they are.

When teenage scally Mathew breaks into his shop, the fire of Brian’s resentments flares up. He holds the boy captive and unleashes on him the fury of his bitterness at the world. Mathew fears the worst.

But Brian and Mathew have much in common: both are desperately lonely, observers rather than guests at life’s feast. And they share a desire: for something better than their lot, a longing for meaning, for an end to the pain, for transcendent happiness.

And Brian is determined that things will not continue as they are – he will send them both to a better place, one way or other.

After four highly successful preview shows at Dyspla Festival in November 2012, The 8th Wave returns to the London stage in a production by new company Disturbance. James Ernest’s stunning debut play is a tense, highly-charged and poetic exploration of our desire for freedom and emotional fulfilment. In its shocking finale, it acknowledges our need to experience moments of oblivion, to escape the cruelties of the material world.

The play was developed at Soho Theatre and was runner-up in the Soho Young Writers’ Award 2012. It contains scenes of a violent nature and some nudity.

Disturbance is a new production company developing theatre, film and cross-form digital work. The company presents new writing which excites audiences, creates visceral sensation, challenges orthodox world-views, and shows the contemporary world in all its disturbing variety.

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