EFR - Reviews of Adrift

Adrift

Sun 17th – Sat 23rd August 2014

reviews

Alex Woolley

at 21:51 on 20th Aug 2014

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The plot of Adrift is pretty unremarkable: three men from the Navy, cast adrift on a raft after a failed attempt at mutiny, look out into the ocean and wonder how they might possibly get back to land. But there is a charm to this production, with a lightness and deftness to its humour. It is only occasionally that the quality of the writing dips.

The three characters are nicely differentiated, all with suitably rich back-stories, which are subtly hinted at over the course of the play. Sam Harding plays Mr John, a simpleton from Gloucester with a competently done West Country accent; there is a Welsh doctor, Mr Roberts, played by James Beaumont; and the aristocratic instigator of the mutiny, Mr Henlow, played by Paul Cammack. The standard of acting from all three cast members is certainly above average for the Free Fringe, too. Lines are quickly delivered, with plenty of nuance – even in the depiction of mental simple-ness, which can so easily descend into hammy-ness – and the energy in some of the more panicked scenes is almost tangible.

Despite there not being an obvious way to insert a sense of progression into a plot where three men begin on a raft, do not move from it, and finish on it, the scenes do not drag – for the most part they follow on very naturally from one another, and the conclusion of the play is sensibly ambiguous.

The script does less well in the scenes that are, presumably, intended to be affective. Mr Henlow’s sudden questioning of the meaning of life comes across as insufficiently specific, and not well enough motivated from its immediate context. Similarly Mr Roberts’ discussion of his children back home in Wales seems rather too convenient – it is not as if they are mentioned much, if at all, during the rest of the play.

Adrift is hardly likely to enter the canon, but it makes for an excellent Edinburgh Fringe debut for Tin Shed Theatre Company, the Cardiff-based team behind this production. Let us hope that they return next year and build on this initial success.

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Matthew Lavender

at 10:16 on 21st Aug 2014

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It would be very easy for a play about three men stranded upon a raft in the middle of the ocean with no apparent hope of rescue to be far too serious, to the extent that it becomes rather depressing, or, in an attempt to avoid this level of severity, to be excessively comical, so that it loses all semblance of realism. It is thus a commendable achievement of Adrift – a story that follows a trio banished to die on the raft after a failed mutiny aboard their navy vessel – that it succeeds in, largely, striking a balance between the two, and being a show that is, despite a rather grave underlying storyline, light-hearted and humorous.

The three characters – the arrogant, controlling Englishman Mr Henlow, the short-tempered Welshman Mr Roberts and the simple-minded Mr John, from Gloucester – complement each other beautifully, with each being very distinct and adding something different to the plotline while, at the same time, being neatly compatible with the other two.

The fact that each character has a clear, distinguishable personality was largely down to their excellent depiction, with all three actors in the show putting in a very convincing display.

Sam Harding is superb as Mr John, with a perfectly-timed delivery maximising the comedic potential of his character. James Beaumont is equally adept with his portrayal of Mr Roberts, whose anxiety and frustration come across with a striking realism. As for Paul Cammack, he arguably has the toughest part, having to play the domineering Mr Henlow, but he also does a superb job, never falling out of a character that is deceptively central to the storyline.

If any criticisms can be made of the piece, it would be reasonable to say that the actors do fall slightly short in depicting the steady progression of ever-greater insanity, which would inevitably have beset all of the characters as the time since their banishment lengthened. This is not always apparent, but it does feel like, when a conscious or concerted effort is not being made to make it clear, it is not always obvious that they are any more strained than they had been earlier in the piece.

However, though this criticism is relevant, it does not detract, to any great extent, from a piece that is otherwise very entertaining. Time spent at this production is unquestionably time well spent.

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