“Well, that took a long time to make one point,” was the ‘exit poll’ verdict from a fellow theatregoer, followed by a deep sigh. I quite liked the ‘less is more’ approach to Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, a one-act show that doesn’t try to cram too much in. Beginning at a steady pace – a little too slow for some – Danny (Gareth O’Connor) and Roberta (Megan Lloyd-Jones) do take us on a journey, and a rather emotional one at that, despite an almost British level of initial reticence on both sides as these New Yorkers get to know one another.
It’s not long, though, before the confidence and assertiveness that Americans tend to do so well breaks through, allowing for more flowing dialogue. Both actors inhabit their roles with (as far as I could reasonably deduce) perfect New York City accents. The staging poses a slight problem as much of the dialogue takes place with the two characters in a seated position, or else lying on a bed, affecting sightlines in this studio space without a rake. Even so, it’s the dialogue that carries the show, and I felt it absorbing enough to retain my attention throughout.
Once the play is done with awkward introductions (the pair meet for the first time at the beginning of the play), things become absorbing. It’s not all talking heads though – the programme lists a fight director for a reason – but this came across to me as a distinctive love story. Two people who are fiercely independent end up possibly getting hitched. I say ‘possibly’, as the play very rightly ends without a full and certain resolution. For the record, I do not personally believe their marriage would have lasted in the end.
Both characters’ backstories are harrowing, if at least partially self-inflicted, and in one sense, it’s a surprise that either of them are still here at all. These are lives far removed from the dukes and princes of Shakespeare plays or the well-heeled and well-off folk of Noel Coward productions. It’s great to see a play where characters who would otherwise have been relegated to minor parts, making only brief appearances, mostly to appeal to the audience’s sense of humour, be placed in this play front and centre.
Life is neither fair nor easy for Danny and Roberta. The former acts with what can sometimes be nothing short of passionate rage. The latter is pretty mad, too, but in a world-wearier way. They practically force each other to be complimentary to themselves – because, you know, who doesn’t like a challenge? Overall, though, it’s less clichéd than I’ve just made it out to be, and there is also sufficient dark humour in the play to keep the show an enjoyable one.
A very captivating play, with a far from conventional love story, I appreciated the rawness and edginess of this production. The dialogue and acting were highly naturalistic and the narrative complex enough to maintain interest. Running through a full set of human expression, from violence to tender loving care, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea ultimately gives its audiences reason to hope for better things to come, whatever our current station in life.
Review by Chris Omaweng
A fierce dance of the displaced, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea opens at Theatre N16 for a two week limited run on Sunday 3 April, produced by Theatrum Veritatus, starring Gareth O’Connor (Once, West End) and Megan Lloyd Jones, and directed by Courtney Larkin.
John Patrick Shanley’s classic play is an explosive, deeply affecting study of alienation and the redemptive power of love. Two castaways, Danny and Roberta, fight their way to each other and cling violently in a sea of hardship for a chance at the happiness afforded to most but denied to them. Here lies the ingredients that make us human: the need to be heard, understood, loved and accepted, and the fear of not being any of them. New York is many things, but forgiving is not one of them.
**** “Veritatus Theatre have put a lot of love and thought into this play (…) a tightly written and engagingly executed piece of theatre” (London Theatre 1)
Theatrum Veritatus is a new theatre company of emerging professional artists who are passionate about the cross-fertilization of the North American and British theatrical traditions. They bring together cultures from both sides of the pond to explore shared heritage, and collective futures.
Courtney Larkin is an international Theatre Director currently residing in London, England. She holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Theatre Directing from East 15 Acting School along with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from Montreal’s Concordia University. She has been working in the theatre for over a decade and has dedicated her life in the arts to exploring the human condition. Theatre as Director includes: Good King Richard (The Drayton Arms Theatre and The White Bear Theatre), Auld Acquaintance (Bread and Roses Theatre), I’m Not Here (The Cockpit Theatre), Home free! (Etcetera Theatre and Bread and Roses Theatre), Tuesdays and Sundays (Otherplace at the Basement), The Pillowman (Mainline Theatre, Montreal).
Sunday 3rd to Thursday 14th April 2016