The Vaults Festival has opened its doors to ‘No More Superheroes’ newest production, In My Lungs the Ocean Swells, which follows the story of Julie and Simon, a couple from the Cornish seas struggling to break free of their ties to the ocean and start new lives outside the comfort of their hometown.
The underground, bunker-like space within the theatre led an audience immediately into a nautical world, feeling as if they were in a shipping container or a boat floating in the ocean. This was furthered by the constant soundscape of waves crashing and the smell of saltwater, all of which captures the childhood nostalgia that both of these characters portrayed from the minute they were on stage.
The romanticising of the sea and ocean towns was achieved through vivid imagery and beautiful dialogue, with quotes such as ‘a pinch of rose coloured salt’, and ‘I am more water than anything else’, all of which contributed to an emotional depiction of young love in a place past its time for today’s generation seeking a fast-paced modern life.
The ocean itself is used repeatedly as a metaphor for both the distance and love between the couple, with it representing both endless possibilities and a continuous pool of nothingness. The dialogue flitters between intense, thick imagery and a colloquial description of both of the e characters’ lives, keeping the audience engaged through this play of form and an upkeep of a steady pace. It explores the climate of sea-side towns and their way of functioning as an isolated section to the rest of England, at times presenting the idea that such places are falling, fading, floating back into the waves, and Simon’s laborious attempts and failure to keep in touch with his ocean roots displays how it is impossible for a man to do so, in the same way it is impossible to control to tide and the sea itself.
Time was shown to be passing effectively through subtle lighting changes and morphing of soundscapes into one another, accompanied by sound effects such as phone and technology heard all around you, bringing you back into the twenty-first century in what felt like a timeless piece. The actors’ skills were shown through the lengthy dialogue they delivered, as well as a vast display of accents and impersonation of outside characters, adding to the humour and pace of the piece.
The climax saw Simon’s realisation of the reality of his life and choices coming from being stuck in the past, which stemmed from a desire to fill the shoes of the people important to him that he wanted to walk in the footprints of, but his conflict of deciding whether to hold onto the past or follow his other half to a future of every-changing prospects drives the majority of the piece, asking an audience if they believed that you should follow who you love, or follow what you love.
The traverse staging and seating lead an audience to stare at and study the people opposite you, in the same way you are studying these characters for the hour you are exposed to them. It was a piece watched with ease and managed to capture both an old-fashioned and refreshing perspective of young love and letting go, all building to an unexpected and emotional climax.
‘In my lungs the Ocean Swells’ was playing The Cavern theatre at the Vaults festival until the 9 February. For more information on the show, see the VAULT Festival website.