Tales from a Sea Journey is an exciting amalgamation of voyages and experiences compiled and rehearsed during NIE’s journey from Le Havre, France, to Guadalupe on a French cargo ship.
The performance is charmingly improvisational and familiar, with the actors providing sound and visual effects seemingly off the top of their heads (or, frequently, out of buckets.) Underneath the spray-bottle sea, piecemeal dog and fluorescent orange macs lies a genuine humour and sense of excitement at telling stories. Whilst some are fantastical (the WW2 castaway’s trip takes on an epic, Odyssey feel,) others are virtually mundane (a seasick Dutch Maths teacher,) yet all are told in the engaging, ‘alive’ style the company prides itself on.
The fur and patterned knitwear, the European languages and music all serve to bring together a sense of not just the sea but a particular Northern, Scandinavian sea; one that is not just enchanting and picturesque but harsh, ice-cold and deadly.
If there’s criticism to be had, it is that the humour tends to outweigh any deeper meaning. As much as the play is entertaining, it is rarely moving, and in the few times it ventures to this territory, the moment is snatched away by another handful of jokes. But it is difficult to begrudge NIE this; the timing is spot on and the cast’s feel for the sea, and the stories it holds, is superb.