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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Djupid (The Deep) review

Published in Northings.

Djupid (The Deep)

A LIFE at sea is tough. Every fisherman contends with long days away from home, brutal working conditions and primitive domestic arrangements. It's the same in all northerly waters: the unforgiving sea does not care what country you have sailed from. That is why Jon Atli Jonasson's short, vivid and intense monologue will carry as much resonance for audiences in Halkirk, Skerray and Durness as it does for those in the playwright's native Iceland.

Jonasson's story is as simple as it is familiar: a 300-tonne trawler sets out to sea, gets into trouble and does not return. If there is a weakness in the piece, it is its lack of narrative complexity, but its great strength is in the rich, poetic detail of the language that so compellingly captures the fisherman's life.

In this production originating from A Play, a Pie and a Pint, Glasgow's lunchtime theatre season, Liam Brennan plays a young trawlerman who leaves before dawn to join a semi-comatose crew, hung-over after a two-week on-shore bender, then takes the chance for a brief nap below deck before the real work begins. The journey has hardly begun when disaster strikes.

Superbly translated by director Graeme Maley into a colourful contemporary Scots idiom, Djupid invests this austere life with nobility, capturing a sense of the importance for the community of this dangerous work.

At the same time, the play does not romanticise the fishermen. Hard workers though they are, they are emotionally repressed and capable of nothing more than the most gruff exchange. This is in sharp contrast to the vigour and breadth of Jonasson's language.

As Brennan's character steps from the certainty of land, with its promise of fast cars and pretty girls, to the volatility of the sea, offering only hardship, it is as if he is journeying from life to death metaphorically as well as literally. The dark depths of the sea give him cause to reflect on the richness of life and the small, everyday details that give it value.

Sharing the stage with nothing more than a table and chair, Brennan is on excellent form, powering into Jonasson's script with compelling energy, giving voice to its comic ironies, yet modulating his delivery to allow room for pathos and poetry. The piece shines brightly in the imagination during the telling and, even if it has less lasting resonance, it is worth seeing for his performance alone.

The Deep tours to Ross Institute, Halkirk, 20 April; Village Hall, Skerray, 21 April; Village Hall, Durness, 22 April; Village Hall, Rosehall, 23 April.

© Mark Fisher, 2009

1 comment:

landgirl said...

I enjoyed your review of the play. I saw it at Halkirk and did think the actor did a marvelous job. The Ross Institute is a stark venue for any play.