Keepers

Created by Martin Bonger, Simon Day and Fionn Gill

The Plasticine Men

New Greenham Arts, Newbury, and touring

(2010)

Review by Robin Strapp

Occasionally a new play comes along that totally reinforces your faith in the magic of theatre and the Plasticine Men's impressive Keepers does just that.

It is based on a true story set twenty-two miles off the Pembrokeshire coast in the Smalls wooden lighthouse over two hundred years ago, a lighthouse built to serve and save humanity.

Two Keepers Thomas Howell and Thomas Griffith, stunningly played by Martin Bonger and Fionn Gill, battle the elements to keep the light lit and the mariners safe. Using nothing more than a ladder, a couple of chairs and a trapdoor to create the lighthouse these two accomplished actors take the audience on a captivating and enchanting journey as they retell their story of courage, bravery and companionship.

What was so remarkable about this production was the crafted performances and the enchanting physical theatre that had you believing that the actors were really in a lighthouse. There were so many beautiful touches and attention to detail that completely suspended your disbelief. When one of the keepers cleans the glass outside the lighthouse, you heard the squeak of the glass. Lawrence Williams composed the superb on stage live sound effects and music.

Life in such an intimate space created its tensions between the two men and this is sensitively and movingly explored. They struggle through a violent storm to keep the light functioning and help to heal damaged birds. Life is Spartan but there are some luxuries that help to relieve the monotony like baking a loaf of bread or fishing for mackerel.

As their tour of duty is extended due the atrocious weather, their reason begins to go as the loneliness and isolation plays tricks on their minds. The death of one of the keepers is a true heartfelt moment of tragedy, especially as his body had to be kept on the lighthouse for four months before they could be rescued.

Skilfully directed by Simon Day, this was powerful beguiling theatre, a veritable tour de force. Highly recommended, not to be missed.

Plasticine Men are associate artists of New Greenham Arts and benefit from the Evolve programme which supports promising artists.

The company tour to Bristol and Ipswich before performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.