Low Tide in Glass Bay

Thu 2nd – Fri 3rd October 2014

reviews

Liam Marchant

at 11:50 on 4th Oct 2014

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A line of battered Penguin Classics and DVD cases marks the parameter of the stage in 'Low Tide in Glass Bay'. On the journey between the entrance and my seat, a sudden swerve was necessary to avoid tripping over it. Though a physical collision was averted I was struck by the symbolic resonance of this ankle-high wall of culture. Like the Victorian novels piled upon Judd Apatow films which define the physical space of the performance, the clash of old meets new informs the story.

Bronnie (Eliot Salt) and Karen (Artemis Howard) are a couple who become the legal guardians of their niece, Robwyn (Robyn Wilson), following the death of Karen’s sister. A dispute over the pros and cons of buying a cat differentiates the couple from the outset: Bronnie more sensible, considering the consequent litter, and Karen more spontaneous, just liking animals. That the two share a very real relationship is evident in their quickfire back-and-forth of cutting remarks. Nevertheless, aside from this opening quarrel there was little which depicted Bronnie and Karen as individuals as opposed to a unified front of booze and creative Welsh swearing.

It is not their relationship as a same-sex couple which forms the clash of modernity against tradition in 'Low Tide'. If anything, Bronnie and Karen appear as aging, washed-up bohemians of a 1990s heyday – roles they play with worthy comedic skill. It is actually the innocence of their niece which amplifies the curtness of their experience: ‘haven’t we given you the talk about the birds and the– ‘ ‘vaginas?’ Bronnie interrupts Karen at one point. The couple’s dialogue is endearingly sharp though it is Robwyn, as their adopted child rather than them as new parents, who receives the real education.

With substitutions of ‘fudge’ for ‘fuck’ and sickness after hardly a sip of white wine, Robwyn’s youthful puritanism is made explicit. More convincing is her gawkish love interest, George (Hector Dyer), whose mumbled insistence that ‘girls don’t like nice guys’ is familiar to all teenage boys confused by ‘the game’. The pair are at their best when rehearsing for their school’s musical adaptation of 'The Tempest'. In between rushed exchanges as Ferdinand and Miranda, Robwyn and George play the parts of moody, uninterested teenagers (‘you’ve learnt your lines already? Bit keen’). This juxtaposition of their attitudes to this performance acutely demonstrated the many faces of the teenage self. Even George’s over-zealous sister, Kerry (Katie Wells), is brought to drop her constant spewing of niceties in telling her brother to ‘stop being a pussy’ and make a move on Robwyn.

‘Low Tide in Glass Bay’ skilfully depicts the puberty-inflicted angst and amours of growing up. It did suffer at times from one-dimensional characters like the stock oddball, Owen (Angus Whitehorn), and the archetypal businesswoman-cum-PTA-member, Lynette (Bryher Flanders). However, within the performance itself the audience were treated to numerous other performances as the teenagers and adults alike adapt to the roles thrust upon them, whether by Shakespeare or social services. Though it may have been a low tide, I’d suggest the glass was half full rather than half empty.

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