Drowning Jane’s ‘Maelstrom’ (a review)

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It is still very early days for this company, and if they start as they mean to go on we should expect good things.

Maelstrom is a well written folky piece about a Selky, left by her mother to be raised by a midwife and her child in a small village on the coast. The ‘where’ and ‘when’ are left unclear. I think it benefits from being out of a specific location, as it leaves it all the more mysterious, but depending on how the company wished to develop the piece, the ‘when’ may be important. Temporal context could offer them a huge amount in terms of characterization, design and even plot. The method of narration is very effective with the feel of the and I hope they keep this style even whilst their cast grows.

The set, costume and lighting of this production was very simple, which is exactly as it should be now. It presented an excellent canvas to begin with. The aesthetic matches the folk genre: low lighting, puppetry and few set pieces. However, their puppetry needs a bit of work to properly convey the characters they aim to represent: this will come with practice and workshops. I also think they can afford to be quite adventurous with tech and design in this production: a soundscape would be an excellent tool for immersing their audience in the atmosphere of the coastal setting and the magic of the story. I think that projections and animation could also be well used within Maelstrom to bring the puppetry to life a little more, as well as adding another immersive and exciting aesthetic dimension to the design.

Overall, they have a lovely story and an excellent starting point to build a potentially beautiful show that will stay with its audiences. This imaginative and whimsical piece shows a lot of promise. Even as a scratch piece it had its audience captivated and left us emotional, I very much look forward to see how this play develops in the months leading it to the Edinburgh Fringe.