The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
To The Sea
Druid Theatre, 2005 Winter 2020
of a hundred years ago, whether by Synge, O'Casey or others, had a
recurring theme: men die and women grieve.
was a powerful observation, well worthy of reiteration. Men might choose
to die – and it did seem a choice – in war, in rebellion, or in just
going down to the sea in ships. Women did not choose the role of
mourners, but accepted it with as much faith, grace and simple
practicality as they could.
Synge's 1904 one-act play, here in a beautifully understated production by Galway's Druid Theatre, encapsulates all the power of that vision.
In a coastal fishing village two sisters await news of a brother who may
have been lost at sea. Word comes of a body washed ashore up the coast,
and his clothes are delivered for them to identify.
They try to keep the news from their mother who, as she will tell us, has already lost a husband, a father-in-law and five of her seven sons to the sea.
I don't have to give a spoiler alert because what happens is absolutely
inevitable. The sixth son's clothes are identified just as the seventh
son heads out to sea and an almost immediate death.
remarkable thing about this play is that there is very little weeping
and wailing, the women's business-like getting on with the job carrying
more horror than flashier grieving could.
body found up the coast has been given a Christian burial and so will
the one now lying on the kitchen table, and that they must accept as a
blessing of sorts.
play is saturated in solid realism (not colourful Oirishness, like
Synge's Playboy Of The Western World). A wordless opening sequence shows
one of the sisters going about her domestic work, establishing this as a
up a dead son's walking stick to help her when she goes outside, the
mother comments quietly on the irony that children are supposed to
inherit things from their parents, not the other way around.
there can be few lines more tragic than her matter-of-fact account of
the men she lost to the sea 'and some of them were found and some were
directed by Garry Hynes, Marie Mullen achieves heartbreaking greatness
by resisting any temptation to overact as the mother, while Louise Lewis
and Gemma Reeves capture the younger women at a point where they are
still teaching themselves how to be stoic.
The fully professional and polished video recording by Ronan Fox serves and enhances the play's quiet power.
Receive alerts when we post new reviews