VAULT FESTIVAL REVIEW: When The Sea Swallows Us Whole ★★★★
When The Sea Swallows Us Whole
The Forge, Vault Festival
5th, 7th & 9th February 2020
Set upon a rather abandoned town upon a rock cliff with the fear of erosion tearing them apart, Natasha Collie's take is one of queer love and what we will do to protect those that we love, despite the consequences that may follow.
Mila (Charlotte O'Leary) and Doll (Jack Archer) have been friends their entire lives, and as the near end of their existence is in jeopardy, Mila feels it's now more than ever to take advantage of the 24 pack of condoms she took from the shop and put them into good use, but Doll is rather preoccupied by the supposed Puma that lurks the island, and when newcomer Posy (Jacoba Williams) migrates from the city to look after her grandmother, she starts to threaten the close bond between Mila and Doll, with some rash actions causing catastrophic affects.
The three performers manage to capture a vivid imagination from Beth Kaplia's direction, with Archer's uncontrollable shakes and fear mirroring O'Leary's confident but often erratic persona; her first meeting with Posy on the pier is a rather confrontational affair as she defends her decision to wait on the beach every morning for hint of her mother's overdue reunion, with O'Leary and Williams' putting on a display of tension that has us gripped as Williams' continues to tease and push the boundaries of her new friend.
As mentioned above, the heart of this story is an LGBT+ affair between Mila and Posy, one that doesn't come across forced from the text and feels layered throughout; a second viewing is definitely recommended to follow the signs as at some points it feels the two narratives clash and some ideas don't fully become fleshed out, especially with the Puma subplot and significance, but as the final scene takes place in a setting that we recognise as a desperate bid to win over feelings for one of the characters, we are left with a satisfying ending that closes a chapter to slowly enter an uncertain future that we long to find out the outcome of.
Overall, When the Sea Swallows us Whole is an established piece of urban storytelling that mixes a atmospheric Sound Design and equally puts Natasha Collie as a playwright who creates characters with heart and a compelling voice when it comes to storytelling.