Young theatrical talent is a very delicate thing. Up-and-coming writers, directors and performers need to be nurtured, supported and encouraged by those who have already cut their teeth in the industry. They need space, literally and metaphorically, to explore, experiment and create. Nothing sums this up better than The 8th Wave, which boasts a wealth of creative hands on deck, and has been given the opportunity to shine by The Space, a cosy and intimate arts venue on the Isle of Dogs.
Brian (Francis Adams) is a thoroughly insular and isolated figure; a shopkeeper frustrated by what he sees to be society’s ills, the something-for-nothing culture he reads about in The Daily Mail. When teenage Mathew (Alex Payne) breaks into his shop, Brian takes him captive, using Mathew as a vent for all that he believes to be wrong with the world. But Brian and Mathew have more in common than is first apparent, both are desperately lonely and share a burning desire to have something better than their meagre lot. An unlikely camaraderie and friendship blossoms, as each feeds off each the other in search of a better life.
The 8th Wave is a highly charged and intense affair. Moments of deafening silence are interrupted by the buzzing of a fly or the unintentional off-stage noises that penetrate The Space. These actually add to the piece, a passing police car or fragments of conversation reminding the audience, as well as Brian and Mathew, perhaps, that there is still an outside world. Writer James Ernest comments on this as well, for him, The Space “has a rawness about it… the rustic feel adding to the play itself”.
There is a poetic charm about Ernest’s writing, his characters speak with a naturalistic fluidity that sees memories and emotions visited and revisited at various points, thoughts are either pondered on, for instance on childhood visits to the dentist or buying sweets, or dismissed straight away, such as the power of the police to help either party; Brian and Mathew are thoroughly detailed and complex individuals. Unfortunately the writing at times meanders a little and feels slightly clunky; references to Brian as being little more than “a beverage dispenser” is a little unsatisfying, for instance.
The poetry present in the script extends to the staging, too; the cardboard boxes that make up Brian’s room are used to create a life-size rowing boat, which juts out into the audience, blurring distinctions between performance space and audience seating. There is beauty in this, the message that is understood is that Brian always had the resources to achieve betterment at his disposal.
Whilst The 8th Wave may feel a little undercooked and naive at times, in many ways it is the combination of creative talent united through the production that is on display here. James Ernest, a graduate of the Soho Theatre’s Young Writers Programme, has a natural ability that will surely be honed and moulded for future writing, and Dom Mc Camphill’s fledgling new theatre company Disturbance, set up on the ethos of “developing and producing unconventional and challenging new work”, will surely go from strength to strength. Co-director Luke Lutterer recently earned plaudits assisting on the award-winning A Doll’s House at the Young Vic and has a creative vision which belies his tender years. Keep an eye on Disturbance and these individuals, they may well be theatre’s future.
The 8th Wave is on at The Space until 13 April. For more information and tickets, see The Space website.