Vaults, London – until 19 February 2017
Camilla Whitehill’s grandmother died when her dad was 10 years old. He never talked much about her, but Camilla is fascinated by this woman she never met. Inspired by familial memory and grief, Whitehill and five other theatre makers draw on their own histories to create a playful homage to the endurance of family stories. It’s a joyful experience with a retro seaside aesthetic and a big heart, though lacking in polish and a consistent throughline.
Whitehill’s dad is present through excerpts of a recorded interview that are often difficult to hear what with the acoustic challenges of the space. More effective is her conversational discussion about her grandmother Valerie. There’s music and spirited banter from the cast of four, with some transitions clearer than others. When the story abruptly shifts to that of a local beauty queen, it isn’t immediately clear that this is a totally different set of people. Valerie is the primary focus of the piece, and the other stories that make appearances aren’t given as much stage time, which causes a lack of balance and thematic consistency.
The cast’s charm and enthusiasm are undeniable, as is their commitment to sharing the stories of their ancestors. The appeal of the piece comes more from this and the need to share stories than its construction. But that’s not to say On the Crest of a Wave wouldn’t stand up to further development and streamlining the execution of its intention. It’s certainly one to watch.