Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Jethro Compton presents Sirenia, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Sally Stott.
Flight after flight of stairs, reaching to the highest turret of C Nova is like climbing to the top of a lighthouse – which is appropriate, because once you get there inside a lighthouse is where you find yourself. Now in his eighth year at the Fringe, Jethro Compton specialises in creating immersive theatrical experiences that place the audience in intimate, beautifully designed sets directly alongside the performers. This time only 15 of us can fit. Meanwhile, outside a storm is gathering, the lights are flickering and despite the tiny space full of bodies, the temperature’s turned cold.
By the time the lighthouse keeper, Issac, returns from the roaring elements outside, takes off his yellow waterproofs and shakes puddles of rain on to the front row, the joyful interaction of the Festival outside has been replaced by the desolate isolation of a man who is alone in every way. His story is a tragic one of love and loss, permeated by a brief opportunity to connect with someone, after years of being alone, when a young woman is washed up on shore. Haunted by both his history and the hidden depths of the sea, this gnarled, windswept and ultimately very vulnerable figure – touchingly played by Rob Pomfret – embarks upon a slow demise as we, the audience, watch on, powerless to help.
It’s a sensitively written piece (by Compton) in which the blue-lipped, shivering woman Morvoren (Evie Tyler) comes to represent both the invigoration and danger of nature at its most extreme – one that is enriched by an evocative soundscape and simple yet haunting folk songs.
The performers’ understated connection is incredibly touching and, as they take their bow, it becomes apparent just how effectively they and the production have transported us to somewhere incredibly remote from the heart of the world’s biggest arts festival.
C nova (Venue 145) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 19 August 2015
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