“You can’t be too old for this and too young for that.”
Is there another fringe theatre that transform itself oh so utterly as the Old Red Lion? You might not think it to look at the Angel pub theatre, with its inflexible seating on two sides, but clever programming and exciting creative thinking has meant that its playing space has constantly and consistently reinvented to great effect (wrestling ring, rooftops. 1930s New York) and new play Sea Fret is no different.
Designer Rūta Irbīte converts the stage into a section of the Suffolk coastline that writer Tallulah Brown grew up around and under Simon Gethin Thomas‘ sun-bright lighting and Daniel Balfour burbling sound design, it looks absolutely gorgeous, transformative in the best possible way. And on this bit of beach, the tangled friendship of Ruby and Lucy plays out a key stress-test of a moment – the summer where they’re 18, where the choice between university and home has to be made.
Lucy Carless’s Ruby is an elemental force, determined to get that final blowout of a party where Georgia Kerr’s Lucy is a tad more sensible, a tad more settled in her life knowing that she’s moving on. But even as Ruby opts to stay, the sea has other plans as the ground under their feet is eroding away and their homes are under threat, a fight both of their (single) parents are waging with an intransigent council.
Brown’s writing is highly evocative, especially as it relates the specificity of the intergenerational relationships here, and clearly heartfelt in its love for the place and if its structural leaps don’t quite mitigate the occasional opacity of its narrative, Carla Kingham’s production really kicks into action once tragedy strikes and flicks the girls, particularly Ruby, out of the relative comfort zone of the first act.