The Spring Tide*** (Old Red Lion Theatre, 5 September 2013)

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews:

Spanning around 30 years in the lives of two women, Carol Vine’s two act play is about characters “in exile”, living false lives and struggling to find their true identities. It examines the emotional cost of their misjudged choices both to themselves and to others around them. The story intercuts between showing the two firstly as adolescents and then as women in their mid-40s, reunited after a nine year separation. The young Suzy (Lorena Vila) is straight-laced and conventional when she befriends Lan (Nellie McQuinn) who is naturally non-conformist and suffering violent bullying at school. Lan is always aware of her lesbian tendencies and, although Suzy resists at first, the two eventually become lovers. In these scenes, the two young actresses give sensitive and convincing performances. In later life, Lan, now played by Anita Parry, is is an abrasive and unsympathetic character who shows few signs of the fragility of her younger self. She is openly gay, has become a successful businesswoman and yearns to resurrect her relationship with Suzy (Melanie Ramsey), who is married and has settled for a dreary suburban life. Suzy’s seriously disturbed teenage son Lewis (slightly over-played by Pierro Niel Mee) is portrayed as collateral damage from her dishonest marriage. The writing is humourless, but, commendably, avoids excessive sentimentality and the bare stage design, using just five tea crates to serve multiple functions, also belies any feeling of romance. At times there are lyrical qualities in the script, but it is patchy and sometimes lacks complete authenticity. The play is structured so that almost every scene centres on a heated argument in which self-interested characters talk at cross-purposes with each other. Eventually this becomes very tiring for the audience and it undermines our efforts to empathise with the characters; we are left with a need to explore inside these people more deeply, which is never satisfied when the focus is always on the differences between them. The core theme, which is the cost of adhering to social norms instead of following the dictates of the heart, is well presented, but some interesting sub-themes are only partially explored. For example, a natural affinity between Lan and Lewis is suggested but not developed. Writing in the programme, Carol Vine states that she “simply wanted to write a love story”. Ultimately, she may have achieved this, even though the confrontational nature of much of the play works against her objective, as does her reluctance to allow any of her characters more than fleeting happiness. However, in the closing scenes, when past and present are reconciled, she gives us a genuine insight into the nature of love and thereby brings the play to a touching conclusion.

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