• Amy Toledano

When The Sea Swallows Us Whole presented by BTS Productions

What Is It?

A strange, sensitive coming-of-age story set in a coastal town that is about fall into the sea.

What Is It About?

Ostensibly: climate change, LGBTQ+ issues and abuse. Actually: the relationship between the teenage powerhouse that is Mila, and her quieter, more fearful friend Doll, and what happens to that relationship when the magnetic Posy arrives from the city. Doll is afraid there is a puma loose in the town; Mila still hopes her absent mother will come back. Meanwhile, the ground under the local shop has quite literally fallen in.

How Did It Make Me Feel?

I liked this a lot. It’s touching and funny and very deftly directed by Beth Kapila. The three actors are swirled into an evocative sound and lighting scape in which it seems perfectly possible that one could be stalked by a puma. All three performers are strong, with Charlotte O’Leary giving a particularly swaggering performance as Mila. The LGBTQ+ storyline avoids cliché and there’s a strong sense of place, particularly admirable considering the set consists of no more than a few crates. However, the play hangs so many issues off its central relationship that that relationship needs to be mesmeric, yet the chemistry between all three actors doesn’t quite ignite. There are also strange moments of erosion in the play itself. I can understand the decision not to show a plot-critical kiss, for fear of diverting attention from one relationship to another, although in the moment it is distancing. Less understandable is the lack of detail in the props; a bag supposedly containing a grocery haul in fact just contains a packet of custard creams. A minor detail, but a jarring one in such an intimate venue.

Anything Else?

This doesn’t subvert the coming-of-age genre, but it does a particular ‘alternative’ niche of it very well.

Grace x

When the Sea Swallows Us Whole is playing in the Forge, VAULT Festival until the 9th February 2020.

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