In Doggerland @ The Lowry, Salford

Review by Conori Bell-Bhuiyan | 13 Nov 2013

In Doggerland is a story of family, grief and human nature. More specifically, it’s the story of what happens when siblings Linus and Marnie turn up in a coastal town looking for a meeting with Simon. Marnie was born with a heart defect and has just received a life-saving transplant. Simon is the father of the donor. It’s a sensitive and emotive subject matter but it’s handled here with careful sincerity and honest characters.

Beneath the sober subjects of loss and mourning there’s a light sprinkling of humour and some snappy dialogue – especially from Natalie Grady, who plays Kelly, Simon’s daughter. The play’s greatest strength is that all of the characters boast the rare quality of being truly relatable, from the sulking, childlike, but surprisingly insightful Marnie (Jennifer Tan) and her seemingly happy-go-lucky brother Linus (Benjamin Blyth), who secretly wishes he could escape from his dependent sister, to grieving husband and father Simon (Clive Moore), a middle-aged estate agent who – despite his best efforts at composure – is being slowly sucked down by his sorrow, and Kelly, who’s still coming to grips with losing her identical twin sister and seeks refuge in sarcasm and solitude. The standard of acting is very high and the pacey direction from Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder keeps a natural flow between the many scene and location changes that shape the narrative of the play.

There are many big themes brought up in In Doggerland, but there are also many big questions left unanswered, and the awkwardly tagged-on flash-forward epilogue doesn’t feel like it does justice to the fine work that has gone before. That said, you have to applaud playwright Morton-Smith for the subtle, incisive and thoughtful skill with which he’s rendered relationships between characters.

In Doggerland tours to Mill at the Pier, Wigan, 19 Nov; The Continental, Preston, 21 Nov; and The Lantern Theatre, Liverpool, 22-23 Nov