The Tower

You might not think of combining Coleridge’s The Rime of The Ancient Mariner with Disney’s Moana, but if you do you might have a story that resembles The Tower, a tale of exploration, adventure, and growing up in an uncertain and frightening world.

Moves much of the audience to tears

Set in the not too distant future, climate change has altered the course of the human race forever, most prominently by a flood of truly biblical proportions that has left only the tallest places untouched and what's left of society in total collapse. We follow the story of Toni (Isabella McCarthy Sommerville), a young woman born into this reality, who is reluctant to look beyond the company and comfort of her mother, Fran (Sarah Widdas).

Early scenes are mired by clunky exposition, as the mother and daughter pairing have conversations their characters would never need if they didn't have to explain the situation to the audience. However, once the narrative leans into the adventure, their chemistry warms up and both deliver heartstopping performances. McCarthy Sommerville starts off as a sulky teenager, dressed like a cross between Avril Lavigne and Lara Croft. But the story we see her play out is more akin to that of The Terminator’s Sarah Connor: a young woman who is forced to find her inner strength. This all female cast embrace this female driven narrative: writer Emma Kelly clearly envisions that the future is female.

Director Debbie Fitzgerald and choreographer Charlie Hendren craft some beautiful moments: a rapid fire scene of rescue where Toni is physically rushed around the stage moves much of the audience to tears. When Fran recounts a horrifying story from her past, Widdas injects a physicality and urgency into the performance that leaves you breathless. The accompanying score is highly emotive, elevating the poignancy of these scenes.

Lorraine Yu’s character comes to the fore later on, but she’s intrinsic throughout, her fluid movements transforming her into elements as varied as the ocean waves or a person shaped tarpaulin. The capoeira associated with her character brings texture to the staging, but otherwise could have been integrated further into the performance rather than simply an unusual addition.

Although The Tower can sometimes veer towards being too polemical, Kelly clearly has a talent for storytelling and never ignores the audience’s need for drama and relationships. Plus, you're unlikely to find a better venue for this story of a flooded world: Brighton Fishing Museum certainly knows the inseparable beauty and danger of the sea.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

In the not-too-distant future, climate emergency causes catastrophic floods. Leaving the underprivileged high and dry in dilapidated flats. Can Fran convince Toni that abandoning everything is the only way to survive? Can Toni face the painful truth? Who or what will she find on her epic journey of survival in the flooded world beyond their tower? The Tower explores how extreme weather will affect us. It plays with themes of love, legacy, and family, imagining how we might tell stories if the power goes. It’s a dark tale infused with music and poetry that will pull you in and set you to sail on an ocean in a possible future of our own making.

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