What happens when dissatisfaction crashes upon a nation? Where do you turn when a crumbling economy, the demise of family values and the ever-growing wealth of corrupt bankers becomes too much to bear? The recent Occupy protests around the country that showed an outright revolt against the system is certainly one way to express that sentiment. However, for Ted, a well-meaning father ashamed of his home nation, there is another option. So, along with his gawky bespectacled son, Ted establishes Sealand, a sea fort seven miles out at sea from Britain where he can create his very own vision of a brand new nation.
Written by Luke Clarke, Sealand is in fact based on the true story of Major Paddy Roy Bates who occupied a former World War II Maunsell Sea Fort in the North Sea in 1967. As a micronation just far enough from the mainland to be exempt from its law, Bates went on to create an economy, a legal system, a national anthem, passports for his citizens and even a team of official national athletes for Sealand.
In this dynamic piece of new writing drawing on this incredible story, the Alchemist Theatre Company play around with the complicated ethics of establishing a new colony. Always on the brink of potential tyranny, Ted has to deal with the real threat of creating a dystopia from his utopian dream, as well as having to manage the dissatisfactions and qualms of his own citizens. But, as his dream of a free and good nation strengthens, to what lengths will Ted go to preserve the haven he has founded?
Invoking ideas of the Robinson Crusoe figure or a kind of new Adam, this is a production that coped fantastically well with the breadth of the possibilities the story could take, not punching above its weight yet remaining grand in its ambitions and designs nonetheless. With an impressive multifunctional set, some very daring scenes and an overwhelmingly strong story, Sealand has all the tempestuous force of a storm that locks you in its incessant power.
Whilst some of the script has a tendency towards an adolescent sense of humour with some rather awkwardly clunky lines and teenage ideas, Sealand as a whole is a hopeful and inspiring tale. A great feat of probing writing, it will see you grabbing your Sealand passport ready to step aboard this new island of theatre cut off for 70 minutes from the knowable, conventional mainland.
****- 4/5 stars
Sealand is at Zoo until August 27th as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.