Vessel focuses on the reunion of five Irish siblings who are in the process of building a ship together in memory of their mysteriously absent brother John. This feat is dominated by the usual bickering that comes with brother-sister relationships, interspersed with a variety of childhood recollections - some of which are a lot darker than the rest.
A simple aural backdrop of crashing waves sets the seafaring scene, simultaneously reflecting the tumultuous sibling relationships that are to be revealed throughout. The staging devised by the recent Nottingham University alumni is one of the performance’s greatest strengths. Using only coats, a piece of rope and a few torches as props, the cast creatively depict a shift from the present day ship-building to a focalisation of past memories with only the manipulation of a garment or the flick of a torch beam. Initially these fast-paced time shifts are quite confusing and difficult to follow, but as the story unravels the actors’ convincing shift between the portrayal of a more mature mindset into their past infant selves. The depiction of the memory of one Christmas morning is a particular highlight.
The company describes their show as a ‘bittersweet comedy’ but in reality it's far more bitter than sweet. The comedic elements of the performance were few and far between, so much so that when they occurred they seemed out of place amongst the dramatic pauses and pensive mid-distance stares. Although this didn't necessarily detract from the depiction of the familial relationships between the characters, it was certainly superfluous to the dominating emotive storyline about the loss of a brother under strange circumstances. If it’s a comedy you’re looking for, this will miss the mark. What you will find though is an imaginative performance that holds one’s attention throughout.