The Rag Factory, London – until 2 August 2015
Guest reviewed by Liz Dyer (@LizziD82).
The opening minutes of Craft Theatre’s one-woman show, The Diver, are slightly unsettling. After an introduction from director Rocky Rodriguez Jr, performer Helen Foster bounces on to the stage. And then off again. Then back on. The lights are still up. You have no idea if this is part of the show or not. There’s a bit of stand-up comedian style banter, and a few awkward silences, between which we’re constantly reassured that the show has, in fact, started. It’s clear that this is not going to be a ‘sit in the dark and make no noise’ theatre experience. We’re all in this together, whether we like it or not.
And so the story begins. Kate Plank is the ultimate overachiever, who’s decided, for her latest mission, to walk solo across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean from Lands End to New York. Along the way she’ll beat up a shark, make friends with a fish and even get a boyfriend (sort of). But will she make it out of the ocean and fulfil everyone’s expectations? And, more importantly, if she does, will it finally make her happy?
The show uses a combination of puppetry, physical theatre, improvisation and audience participation to conjure up the magical underwater world. Myself being a watcher rather than a doer of theatre, I was initially a bit horrified by the prospect of being a part of the show. But Helen’s eagerness and excitement are infectious, and before I knew what I was doing, I was waving my arms, making siren noises and even – gasp – singing. Out loud. In the tiny, intimate space at the top of the Rag Factory, there’s nowhere to hide, so you really have no other option but to get over any fears and throw yourself headfirst into it (pun intended). And it turns out it’s strangely liberating to sit in a room with a bunch of strangers and pretend to be a bit of kelp. Who knew?
The Diver is a charming and irresistible piece of theatre, with some important life lessons woven in among the mayhem. It’s about knowing what you want from life, having the courage to pursue it, and not judging yourself by how others see you. It’s also completely bonkers – but once you embrace the madness, it becomes a lot of fun. Helen Foster, for all her chaotic twirliness, is a seriously talented performer, bringing to life not only Kate Plank but also the various underwater creatures she meets along the way. And she does it with such glee that you can’t help but be swept up in her adventure. It’s really hard to tell how much is scripted and how much just comes off the top of her head, which gives the whole performance a very natural feel; it really is like hanging out with a friend.
Don’t be put off by any initial awkwardness; this is a lovely little show and highly recommended for good family-friendly fun. But do bring along your inner child, and be prepared to leave any issues at the door… there’s no place for them here.
Company: Craft Theatre
Performer: Helen Foster
Director: Rocky Rodriguez Jr.
Running time: 70-80 minutes
Performance Dates: July 9th 2015 – August 2nd 2015 Thursday to Saturday, 8:00pm Sunday, 6.00pm
Venue: The Rag Factory, 16-18 Heneage Street, London E1 5LJ
Ticket Prices: £12 (Concessions £10)
Box Office: Ticketsource (craft.ticketsource.co.uk)
Travel: Aldgate East station (7 min walk)
Shoreditch High Street Station (11 min walk)
Liverpool Street station (15 min walk)
Links: Website (www.craft-theatre.com)
The Diver Trailer (youtube.com/watch?v=QP_scDswoJM)