Lost at Sea @ King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Mona Young's story of a sailor lost at sea is heartfelt and compelling, but structurally it falls flat

Live Review by Carmen Paddock | 28 May 2019
  • Lost at Sea @ King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Loosely based on playwright Morna Young’s own experiences to understand the loss of her father on a fishing vessel, Lost At Sea serves as a testament to the untold stories of northern Scotland’s lost sailors. Following a fictionalised version of herself, Shona, as she returns to the town she left as a small child, past and present figures from her father Jock’s life create two concurrent narratives: the days leading up to Jock’s last venture and his family and friends’ current faded/repressed memories.

The juxtaposition of the personal and communal, and of naturalism and physical theatre, highlights the quest into one’s past and the interconnectivity of the stories found there. While the abstract moments evoke the sea’s catastrophic force and unpredictability, the show’s strongest moments are the quietest. The aching humanity of normal dinners before calamity strikes, confidential conversations, and overdue meetings of relatives – each scene delivered simply and sincerely – shows the ripple effects of each lost ship and lost body. On the other side of the performance spectrum, the occasional use of Shakespeare’s rhymes lends an almost mythical, timeless quality to a community bound by the whims of the sea and the industry’s every increasing demands.

The storytelling components of Lost at Sea are all solid and compelling in their own right, but unfortunately the combination falls flat, hampered by disjointed scene structures and a meandering tone that distracts from rather than adding to the haunting atmosphere. While heartfelt and often visually striking, the powerful story of identity, loss, and homecoming is dampened by ponderous pacing. As a result, the inherent, inevitable danger of fishermen’s lives lacks the visceral pull it could have. The deep tragedy of industries, communities, and families ripped apart by the sea is tangible, but the opportunity to explore this interconnectivity is lost with a focus that stays too narrow until the show’s closing moments.

Lost at Sea @ King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, run ended