Dare To Sea is aimed at very young children and so, out of necessity, follows a simple narrative: it uses no words. A fisherman (Colin Jolet) catches a fish for a girl in a yellow dress (Maya Politaki). But when he throws his line into the sea again, the hook tangles in the hair of a beautiful, singing woman (Gaëlle Cathelineau). The mermaid and her friend (Clara Solana) entrance the fisherman into the sea and pull him down to their lair. Aghast, the girl in the yellow dress dives in to rescue him. During their journey back to the seashore, they fight creatures of the deep, discover how to be brave, and realise that the people we love are worth saving. What lifts the production above the ordinary is its use of overhead projection, live animation, and acrobatics to tell the story.
Jolet performs the most impressive leaps and backflips – the fisherman battles a giant, toothed fish using moves that evidently come from Jolet’s training in capoeira, the Brazilian dance-influenced martial art. Cathelineau does some tricksy juggling and Solana also plays a spidery sea-witch, twisting ropes around the two main protagonists. They escape with the kind of magical ease with which circus performers on aerial silks unwind themselves. The acrobatics work well within the piece, suggesting an underwater weightlessness and helping Jolet enact a comic drunkenness when the two mermaids appear to drug him. The action was scored by Yaniv Friedel’s music, jokey and brooding by turns.
But the atmosphere in Dare To Sea was most excitingly created through four overheard projectors – two at the back of the auditorium, one stage left and one stage right. The two at the back were operated by Frank Française. Transparent saucers of hydrogenated, coloured liquids – blue, green and red – were projected onto the stage. When something disturbed the watery world, the splashes and flurries were caused by Française blowing on the blue liquid through a straw. When the mermaids prepare a potion, the green oily liquid is stirred by a small fan in his offstage set-up. Just in front of the stage, an actor moves a small yellow cardboard circle back-and-forth across a projector screen. Onstage, the girl and the fisherman bat the sun to-and-fro across the sky like a volleyball. The cleverness of the idea was probably lost on most of the under-4s in the audience, but it’s a stroke of brilliance – innovative, cheap, effective.
There were times when, as an adult, the music felt maddeningly repetitive and the swirling, bubbling backdrop looked like a bad hallucinogenic trip. A little boy in front of me found it a bit too scary, and the general consensus seemed to be that there should have been more fish. But Peut-Être aren’t fobbing children off with a half-baked, Spongebob-lite, fishy tale – it’s showing them some of the possibilities of theatre. There’s something joyful and reassuring about that.
Dare To Sea played at Jacksons Lane. For more information, see the Jackson’s Lane website.