With the makings of a strong and novel concept for the basis of a piece of theatre, Who Said Theatre‘s The Calm sees war spark the cementing of one relationship and the destruction of a second.
Ethan Taylor’s well-structured script provides clever moments of comparison between the two couples and light-hearted humour aplenty, but the overall production could benefit from some bolder direction.
Constant anachronisms in the plot add interest, and dialogue at points certainly caters to a more philosophical audience. Some lines seem a little arbitrary, and lack purpose in the overall plot, though witty parallels in the dialogue tie the piece together nicely as similarities in circumstances between the two couples are highlighted.
Though the quartet of actors barely appear on stage together, they seem a well-gelled team. In all four cast members there are occasional enunciation and projection issues, rendering some – potentially humorous – lines rather incomprehensible at times. More could be made of the wittier lines from Taylor’s script; some seemed rushed, but when played well, they did elicit laughter from the audience.
Taylor shines as soldier Sam; Jennifer Whitehall as lone-survivor medic Holly aptly deals with some of the more poignant parts of the play; Simon Stallard brings warmth and humour into a frosty environment; and Rebecca Marklynn as Ella commands authority for her character well.
Movement could be slicker; pauses between scenes are overlong at times which disrupts the rhythm of the piece. Similarly, an introductory movement sequence gets the play off to a slow start and seems unnecessarily long.
The play is very suited to the claustrophobic environs of the black studio space, but the set is sparse and perhaps could have benefitted from more adornment. Props used are clunky and the clumsy movement of a vital prop at a climactic point detracted from a build-up of tension.
The sound design is well thought out but could have been developed more throughout the play, rather than its sporadic appearances.
Overall, The Calm has potential, and some minor improvements would really impact the piece. Taking more risks with direction and design would definitely pay off, but the plot is strong enough to lend itself to a very good play: both structure and dialogue work well to retain audience attention through the significant parts. The production certainly merits being credited with far more than just the ‘love story’ it has been billed as.
The Calm is playing at Edinburgh Fringe Venue 13 from August 21-27, with previews in London and Cardiff and a closing run in London.