Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Glass Eels by Nell Leyshon, Hampstead Theatre, 10-Jul-2007 – Director Lucy Bailey

I get the feeling that at least one review of this show will start along the lines of, “Although thisplay is set in the Somerset Levels, I couldn’t help think of the problems they’ve been having in Yorkshire recently”. Basically the stage gets gradually flooded during the show. It’s quite a nice effect, a small stream (pretty much just a groove cut into the floor) trickles and occasionally gushes throughout, from under a bed, the covering the dried out mud-effect floor. It was odd to notice that although the actors showed no difficulty in wading about in (sometimes) ankle-deep water, when it came to taking the bow at the end several were on tip-toe trying to avoid getting any wetter. I suppose I could go through a list of other waterlogged plays I’ve seen such as the Almeida’s Tempest or Terry Johnson’s play Imagine Drowning at the Hampstead where Sylvestra Le Touzel was dropped into a large glass-sided tank of water at front of the stage, but there really isn’t much to say other than I’m always unnecessarily concerned about the practicalities and the potential damage it does to the props. Actually I did spend a little time thinking that they’d have to use a reservoir of some kind to feed the stream, rather than just turning on a tap from the mains, so that they’d get the right amount of water on stage. I really should think of more interesting or uplifting things at the theatre.
I have to say that I didn’t really get the point behind the imagery of the eels and it did feel over-repeated at times. The back of the play text mentioned “a girl’s sexual awakening” and at the time I didn’t see the connection with eels stirring in the mud, building up their reserves of fat for their great migration to the Sargasso Sea. Thinking about it now I’d concede that there probably is one and I was too obtuse to think about it.
I’m not sure whether there’s much to this play really. Pretty much a father and daughter need to have a good chat about the death of his wife and her mother. All the same it didn’t feel like I’d spent as much as 90 minutes waiting for this to happen when the play ended. I think I would have liked more insight into the character of the father (played by Philip Joseph) and Kenneth (played by Tom Burke).
The only actor I had any problem with was Tom Georgeson as the grandfather. His part seemed to be written as a frail crotchety old man but he didn’t convince me that he lacked the strength of body or strength of will that this character needed. It was a casting thing not a performance thing, perhaps I always see too much iron in Tom Georgeson’s soul.

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