Reviewed – 1st February 2018
“strong production, with the cast doing a solid job at bringing Darke’s work to life”
The sound of seagulls, piles of deadwood, and the genuine smell of fish, help to turn a London pub theatre into a scene of our British coastline. The Cornish coastline to be precise. Booby’s Bay is the first full-length play by playwright Henry Darke and it’s all set within his home county. Darke uses a world that he clearly knows and cares about to create an impassioned, wistful, yet comic tale that efficiently shifts between laughter and tears.
The holiday season is imminent, and so the residents of Booby’s Bay are preparing themselves for the tidal wave of tourists that are coming. Most residents are accepting and appreciative for the influx of people making their way to the remote, picturesque cove, but Huck isn’t having it. He is taking a political stand. Huck, a local former fisherman, is squatting in the empty second home of a city slicker who uses it for only a few weeks of the year. Holiday homes such as this scatter the coast of Booby’s Bay, contributing, Huck believes, to a housing crisis for Cornish natives. As his mother, friends and ex-girlfriend slowly get exasperated with him, it becomes apparent it could be the torment of certain traumatic events from the past that is spurring Huck’s headstrong behaviour. With a world-famous surfing competition taking place along the beach, bringing in hoards of people, it looks like Huck is fighting a losing battle.
Oliver Bennett gives a confident performance as Huck, shifting between his infuriating stubbornness and emotional fragility with ease. Joseph Chance and Florence Roberts show versatility and prowess with their acting chops, having to multi-role a couple of characters each. Esther Coles provides lighter relief as Huck’s kooky, fun-loving mother, Liz, however, it is Bradley Taylor as Huck’s macho mate Daz that really is the shining light in this production. Starting as the jocular jock, full of bravado, we see these outer layers of armour gradually stripped back to discover a much rawer soul, coming to the forefront when Daz and Huck are embroiled in a heated altercation at the climax of the play.
Booby’s Bay is a generous ensemble piece; giving time to unfold the stories of each resident we meet from the seaside town. Director Chris White chose to include abstract transitions between scenes, where the cast skilfully sing broken parts of sea shanties and pop songs, initially proving a compelling shift from the naturalistic style of the bulk of the play. However, the transitions soon turn into strange and awkward to watch movement pieces that linger on longer than necessary. Nevertheless, this is a strong production, with the cast doing a solid job at bringing Darke’s work to life. It is refreshing to theatrically hear about the lives from a corner of the country that does not get noted enough.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Photography by Blerim Racaj
Finborough Theatre until 24th February