Ben Lewis, Lucinka Eisler, Giulia Innocenti
China Plate, Inspector Sands
Inspector Sands is a relatively new company, comprising director Lucinka Eisler, writer Ben Lewis and co-creator Guilia Innocenti. Rock Pool is their first attempt at making children’s theatre.
The story is a simple one. In the depths of the ocean, Prawn (Eisler) and Crab (Innocenti) live separate, peaceful lives. Until, that is, a storm whips them out of their comfortable homes and into a small rock pool, far from the sea.
Prawn immediately makes herself useful by helping to save Crab, who is stranded on her back, prone to attack by seagulls. Crab is grateful, but soon her baser instincts begin to show—Prawn is, after all, a tasty morsel. Will they both survive for the length of time it takes for a mighty wave to come and sweep them back out to sea?
The action takes place on a Yukiko Tsukamoto and Laura Hopkins’s basic but deceptively clever set, with several hiding-places for props and surprises. Crab and Prawn spend those moments when they are not busy fending off danger singing songs—Tom Mills's tunes are lively and rocky but didn’t quite prompt sing-alongs.
The characters are well-drawn and likeably played. Prawn is nerdy, bookish and prepared for all eventualities. Crab is mischievous, boisterous and prone to living in the moment. There’s an amusing running gag about how much it hurts to be grabbed by pincers. Not to mention an extended fart joke, which went down predictably well.
The crustaceans’ costumes (by Lucie Wright) are suggestive rather than life-like—Crab wears a helmet to indicate her hard shell, while Prawn’s stripy leggings peel away to reveal pink ones when, at a moment of jeopardy, it seems that she is being cooked in the boiling sun.
Matthew Haskins’s lighting effects and Elena Pena’s sound design evoke the changing atmospheric conditions with some effectiveness. Lewis’s Attenborough-esque narration adds to the warm ambience.
There are lessons to be learned—about peaceful co-existence, and co-operation, and helping those in dire need. There’s also the small matter of not eating one’s friends, no matter how hungry one gets.
The script is amusing, subtly ramping up the drama as the sea creatures’ predicament deepens. There are perhaps one or two too many nods to the older members of the audience; the reference to the Jaws theme music was witty, but I wouldn’t want to have to explain the “prawn star” pun to a three-year-old.
Child audiences are unwilling and unable to conceal their boredom—fortunately, while at the mid-afternoon performance I attended there was a little wandering around the auditorium, by and large the play maintained the audience’s attention. The proximity to the actors helped, as did the moderate amount of interaction, and, towards the end, the possibility of getting splashed.
Rock Pool is charming and funny and, at just under an hour, just tightly enough plotted to satisfy. It continues to tour, nationwide.
Reviewer: Othniel Smith