Drenched

Wed 1st – Mon 27th August 2018

reviews

Charlie Norton

at 21:39 on 9th Aug 2018

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'Drenched' is a one-man show written and performed by Dan Frost and directed by Eddie Elks. In just over an hour, the production seeks to tackle the theme of mental illness through the lens of a Cornish folk-tale, ‘The Mermaid of Zennor’, retold by the ‘complex and unstable’ character of Daniel Drench in a ‘comedy-theatre’ format.

The premise shows great potential: Cornwall has a rich tradition of tragic myths, which could be the bedrock for a fresh perspective on the current epidemic of depression and suicide. Equally, I was intrigued to see how Frost and Elks would pair such dark subject matter with character comedy.

However, the vehicle of the folk tale was poorly driven – Drenched was slow and confusing. The magical element of the myth was lost in dragged out silences, punctuated only by droning pre-recorded speeches with which Frost failed to interact. Despite the promise of a ‘relationship with the audience’, Frost himself admitted he could ‘see a few of [the audience] getting a bit sleepy and woozy’. Attempts to rally spirits were expressed in rather an aggressive manner due to poor comic timing, which only intensified the uncomfortable atmosphere.

The real flaw in the production was the incredibly reductive depiction of mental illness. There seemed to be little effort put into exploring the nuances of depression and suicide, with the production depending on sad faces and shock tactics. Frankly, I was shocked to come across such an uninventive depiction at a festival which prides itself on progressive theatre.

Despite this, the musical fusion of contemporary instrumentals and traditional ‘shanties’ paired with sounds of crashing waves and English rain was effective in conveying some sense of a Cornish setting. Both the set and lighting were obviously thought through too, enabling some atmospheric moments, though these were unfortunately undermined by the weakness of the narrative.

Throughout, I was frustrated to see the potential of the production squandered by poorly executed gags, lengthy silences and, worst of all, ignorance regarding mental illness. The technical successes were marred by these weaknesses and, ultimately, the show did not do justice to the Cornish folk-tale which it aimed to enliven.

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Marie-Louise Wohrle

at 01:52 on 10th Aug 2018

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Drenched is a one-man-show about the Cornish storyteller Drench, who retells the tale of The Mermaid of Zennor appearing on land and taking a young man into the sea with her. Third Man Theatre further endows this young man as one struggling to fit into his world and find motivation to live. The show description promises a comedy show of storytelling, stand-up, and physical theatre. This is ambitious, yet the show falls flat due to the conflicting and disjointed elements and genres.

Where the show commits to its idea of a dramatic storyteller, it becomes immensely captivating and intriguing. The final “chapter” of the story, for example, is amazingly told as Frost fully delves into his character of story-teller Drench. His talent also shines through in some shorter pieces which fully commit to the dark storyline. The technical aspect of this show supported those dramatic moments excellently. From the blue back-lighting of the stage to the haunting spotlight shadows, the production was visually incredible. The background music of Cornish songs and chanties, and the simple set design, further help to present a dark tale.

Sadly, the dramatic performance suffers a lot because of the interspersed stand-up and comedy elements. A lot of the comedy in the show is lost due to bad timing and an insecure, too-fast delivery. While the performance could have handled the occasional sarcastic comment, the two larger stand-up interruptions are confusing, and break the connection between Drench and the audience. The second interruption, an angry rant at the audience for not being engaged enough, feels unnecessary and leaves the audience feeling out of place and unwelcome. At the same time, it does set up a gloomy mood for the finale.

Overall, what I thought was missing from the performance was commitment. Eddie Elks and Dan Frost needed to either explicitly commit to the character comedy of the Cornish storyteller and fourth-wall breaking, or to the dark and dramatic narrative of The Mermaid of Zennor. The potential of the show and performer shines through in the moments where Frost commits, but gets lost in the show overall.

It is not just the genre that needed more commitment, but also smaller parts of the show. Cornish elements are apparent, but often feel like they are not connected to the main narrative. Here, too, more commitment could have turned the Cornish connection into one of the strengths of the show and given the tale more grounding, rather than leaving the audience confused.

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