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Salt-Water Moon at Finborough Theatre

Playwright David French was born in 1939 in Coley’s Point, Newfoundland, where his 1984 play Salt-Water Moon is set, in 1926, soon after World War One, when Newfoundland provided a regiment of foot soldiers who were almost annihilated at the Battle of the Somme. This tragedy is made to resonate throughout the play.

Joseph Potter, Bryony Miller - credit Lucy Hayes.
Joseph Potter, Bryony Miller – credit Lucy Hayes.

Jacob Mercer (Joseph Potter) returns one night to Coley’s Point, a low-lying promontory in the Gulf of St Lawrence, to meet his former girlfriend Mary Snow (Bryony Miller). We are gradually drip-fed nuggets of information concerning the history of their relationship, and, thanks to the superb writing, become immersed in their lives until we really feel concerned about what happens to them. French had a gift for writing believable dialogue and knew how to tell a story, as this play exemplifies.

Potter is superb in the role from the moment he meets Mary again: we feel the connection between them immediately, even if she does not acknowledge it. He has a very expressive face and his dialogue always feels natural. He gets the youth and irresponsibility of the role and the more we know about him, the more we like him.

Miller has the stillness required for the role of Mary and builds her role so gradually that we feel we are an interloper on a very private conversation and when she loses control as she does only once, we truly empathise with her.

The play builds ever so slowly to a thrilling conclusion – you can almost feel the audience willing the playwright to take the play in a certain direction, so compelling is the writing and both performances.

But, the director also has a hand in the undoubted success of this production, and Peter Kavanagh has cunningly shaped it so that there are subtle variations of pace and intensity, gradually building to a terrific climax, which leaves us all satisfied!

The simple yet effective black set, lit with stars, is the imaginative work of designer Mim Houghton as is Neil Brinkworth’s lighting (“An August Night”) subtly changing which stars are shining the brightest according to the various moods of the play.

Finborough Theatre has staged many Canadian plays in the last twenty-five years: this must be one of the very best, and also an unusual piece of theatre. A thoroughly involving seventy-five minutes – a play that sets out to completely involve the audience and fully succeeds. Highly recommended!!

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

It’s a splendid moon-filled night in Coley’s Point in 1926.

Young Jacob Mercer has returned home to the tiny and remote Newfoundland fishing village, desperate to win back his former sweetheart, Mary Snow.

But Mary has become engaged to wealthy Jerome McKenzie and is still hurt and bewildered by Jacob’s abrupt departure for Toronto a year earlier.

Even to speak to Jacob will put Mary’s wedding plans in jeopardy. Stubborn and independent, she is determined never to forgive Jacob…

Alex Critoph for Cumulus Productions London presents
in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre
The UK première of SALT-WATER MOON
Director: Peter Kavanagh; Designer: Mim Houghton; Lighting Designer: Neill Brinkworth

3 – 28 January 2023
Press night: Thursday 5 and Friday 6 January 2023 at 7:30pm

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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