Arriving in Edinburgh towards the end of a highly successful tour of Scotland, Lost at Sea is a stunning and memorable tale from North East writer Morna Young, inspired by true events.
When the daughter of a fisherman returns to her home village to ask probing questions about her father’s death, her determined trawl for the truth means she finds out more than she bargained for – with competing versions of what happened emerging and barely healed old wounds re-opening.
Using a meld of verbatim text from interviews with fishermen and Young’s own musings concerning the quest of Shona (Sophia McLean) and its results, Lost at Sea unfolds using a blend of poetry, prose and music. Astute direction from Ian Brown and Jim Manganello means the nine-strong cast move seamlessly from one verbal form to another, as they taking on various groupings on the raised and sloped stage with equal ease. This excellent all-Scottish ensemble – which comprises several weel kent faces such as Gerry Mulgrew, Jennifer Black, Andy Clark – is led by Tam Dean Burn, who is superb in role as the mischievous barefoot Skipper and all-seeing narrator.
Spanning the fishing industry’s boom years of 1975-95, this fine piece of physical theatre exposes the harshness of life for those involved in it – those with ‘salt in their blood’ as well as anyone married into it like Jock’s wife, Eve (Kim Gerard). Written in her native dialect of North East Scots, Young’s play spans lives that are steeped in hard drinking and have tasted the extremes of poverty and riches that necessarily brings bitter family tensions.
Composer Pippa Murphy’s music and soundscape laces the piece subtly with live instruments being played by the males in the cast, including Thoren Ferguson from Scottish band The Jacobites, who plays the Mate. Giant, bolted metal sheets that tower at the back of the stage from designer Karen Tennent slide open to a still image of the deepest, darkest sea. When Ali Craig as Jock stands alone, drowning in his yellow waterproofs, this brooding image shifts to motion as the black sea begins to swirl and churn. It is a scene so intense you could almost believe he was about to actually disappear into the deep, thanks to the incredible atmospheric lighting from Katharine Williams. These waters start to move, becoming reminiscent of the amniotic fluid surrounding an embryo – poignantly and magnificently linking birth and death.
The old hymn “Will Your Anchor Hold” is fittingly included and lustily sung towards the end of the play. In Lost at Sea, Young has written a haunting and powerful tribute to the lost lives of fishermen that forms a respectful hymn to their shared memories.