Sea Change

Lewis Hetherington
A Play, A Pie and a Pint
The Jam House, Edinburgh
(2006)

Before I say anything else, I have to declare bias in the case of Sea Change. Having known writer Lewis Hetherington for a couple of years and read a draft of the piece earlier this spring, I had high hopes for this play and a solid belief they would prove well-grounded. Fortunately, by the time I was able to see the show (on its last date in Edinburgh) other critics had already pronounced the piece a success - so I can be confident that my enjoyment stemmed from the excellent work both writer and company have put into this production.

Sea Change takes place in some undetermined future time, where the excesses of modern humanity have awoken the Sea from billions of years of sleep and created a world where climate change is pushing civilization into ever-decreasing amounts of space and resources. The story focuses around three siblings and their struggle to survive. Andrew (John Kazek) works on the boats, while Sophie (Molly Innes) and Michael (Jim Webster-Stewart) have joined the 'killing squads' that cull designated targets from the population on set days. When the boats are grounded and Andrew must join the squads, he instead retreats to the shore, where he begins to commune with the living Sea (also played by Innes).

Hetherington's natural talent for presenting poetic and effective dialogue, coupled with his skill at depicting human relationships, are centre stage in this production. Maggie Kinloch's direction and the performances of each cast member enable audience members to follow the slightest, subtle shifts in emotion from these complex characters, and the siblings interactions with one another are as multi-layered as in reality.

What sets Sea Change amongst the better sort of future-dystopian fiction is how it shows the effect of an alien situation in very human terms. The play raises questions about personal and familial responsibility, the ethical dilemma of passive resistance (and how to distinguish this from cowardice), and the effects of disregarding the environment on the fragile tensions among the haves and have-nots of the world. These are deep and multi-faceted issues, and Hetherington doesn't shy away from telling the uglier sides of them.

From a performance angle, the intimacy of Sea Change has brought out the best in Kazek (The Slab Boys, Gorgeous Avatar) and Inness (The Slab Boys, One Day All This Will Come to Nothing, and Faust), with Jim Webster-Stewart's performance as the youngest of the three siblings to be no less commended. All three performers lay bare the anguish of their characters, infusing their performances with the love, anger and commitment one expects from people forced to make the decisions they are presented with. Designer Lauren Brown has created a microcosm of the siblings' world within the three settings of their home, the shore, and the Sea itself, incorporating the sometimes rapid scene changes into a fully functional and entirely believable realm.

Director Maggie Kinloch (again, as a former student, I must declare some bias) has done an characteristically intense job of guiding this play from strength to strength, focusing the performances and other production angles into a razor-sharp depiction of the issues and aspects of human behaviour Sea Change sets out to investigate.

Despite its bleak outlook, Sea Change is a very strong and ultimately, uplifting story which shows the struggle faced by every person to make the world a better place. Now that its run at A Play, a Pie and a Pint has ended, one can only hope it will find further life out width this venue in the future.

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Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody