It’s no surprise that Orca, as Matt Grinter’s first full length play, has already been awarded the 2016 New Writing Prize by Papatango. It’s such a brilliant piece to be paired with a venue notorious for its incredible productions, the Southwark Playhouse. I have seen many productions in this venue and I’m frequently impressed by the standard of the work produced.
The Little (or, not so little) space in the venue is fantastically dressed and is unrecognisable – as it is each time I walk in there. Orca’s simple yet effective set completely encourages the mood for this folktale to unfold upon. A preset of sisters Fan and Maggie playing and reading prelude the action. The sisterhood shared between the girls is prominent from the start and is held strong throughout. Emily Jones’ casting of the two girls (Carla Langley and Rona Morison) is brilliant, not only for their talent but also due to the striking resemblance the two girls share – they could in fact be sisters. This detail, although seeming obvious, also sets the tone and helps the audience to be charmed by their delicate love towards each other.
This is reciprocated through their relationship with their father (Simon Gregor) too. The relationships between Joshua and each of his daughters are so personable, and for many different reasons. For example, Maggie, the perhaps too outspoken eldest daughter, has moments of light and shade with Joshua which adds a depth to their relationship which is interesting for the audience to witness.
The direction of the piece is interesting and bold. The venue’s thrust stage allows audiences to view from one of three sides. What was so clever about this was the fact that no moment had gone amiss by director Alice Hamilton. Despite the fact that sometimes you can only see someone’s back, there is always a moment to watch, a face to deconstruct, a stance to understand. It is unflinching in its delivery and makes for a very interesting watch of the story.
The impeccably strong cast lead us through a story which takes a dark turn, but they do the story justice in its delivery. Both Morison and Langley support each other in their character differences which create some creative dynamics between the two, making the story even more heart breaking at the end. Orca certainly achieved the great expectations I had and was a tale that was beautifully told.
Orca is playing Southwark Playhouse until November 27.
Photo: Richard Lakos