Wednesday, 13 November 2013

In Doggerland @ The Lowry, 07.11.13

Identity is a difficult thing to define; we are the sum of our physical and spiritual selves, existing in a continuum with the people we love and care for. We call our hand ‘my hand,’ using the possessive, or confess to ‘owning’ a short temper. When it comes to friends and family we do the same thing, saying ‘he’s got your eyes,’ or even ‘my heart belongs to her.’ So what happens when you lose part of that identity, say a hand to injury, or a loved one who dies? The new Box Of Tricks production In Doggerland by Tom Morton-Smith gets to grips with this complex question and tries to find some answers.

The storyline follows parallel problems. Twenty-something Marnie (Jennifer Tan) was born with a heart condition, one that meant she could die prematurely without a transplant. After years of waiting she finally got her new heart, but rather than relieved she now feels wretched, worrying that her spiritual centre has been lost forever. Meanwhile Kelly (Natalie Grady) has seen her twin sister killed in a car crash, and neither she nor her father (Clive Moore) are coping. As the play progresses the two stories become intertwined and each character must deal with loss, letting go and living on.

Complicated plots like this have to move nimbly, but the text of In Doggerland, although poetic, sometimes sounded cumbersome in the mouths of the actors, clashing with the realism of the staging and directing. Lines like, “death by a thousand cuts,” and, “I’m the prince of white lies,” are very pretty, but jar unless used sparingly; too often the dialogue felt rehearsed rather than conversational, slowing the pace of the play down.

The actors themselves gave good performances, with Benjamin Blyth charming as Marnie’s brother and Clive Moore pitching the guilt-ridden Dad just right. Director Hannah Tyrell-Pinder made efficient use of the stage, neatly transforming it into a flat, a street and a seaside cliff. This was possible because of the design of Rachel Wingate, who had done a lot with very little, making something that the actors and director could be believe in and be creative with.

The enigma of identity remains, but In Doggerland succeeds in stimulating thought on the subject, even if some elements were slightly flawed.

Words: Andrew Anderson

Photos: Devin Ainslie

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