Paul T Davies reviews Bound by Jesse Briton now streaming online as part of Southwark Stayhouse presented by Southwark Playhouse.
It’s a strange experience watching theatre online. Who would have thought buffering would become part of our theatrical viewing frustrations? Not every theatre has had the technical might that NT Live has, and the screening can really only give a taste of what it must have been like in the auditorium. But I, and many of you, are grateful to have it, especially when it gives us a chance to view productions we missed. Such a case is Southwark Stayhouse, productions streaming now from Southwark Playhouse, and Bound by Jesse Briton is a diamond discovery.
Cannily billed as “Six actors, five chairs, one table and an ocean”, the play follows six trawlermen from Devon as they embark on one final voyage. The company that employs them has gone bust, but, desperate for money, the crew take a gamble that they will be the only fishing boat on the water, and will bring home the catch. They’re not, and as the weather turns, you know there is only one way this story can go. The ensemble, Thomas Bennett, James Crocker, Joe Darke, Alan Devally, Daniel Foxsmith, John McKeever, are terrific, each with clearly identifiable characters, men with concerns and pressure. Performed on the small stage of the Vault under London Bridge, he claustrophobia of the vessel is captured, but the ego clashes and macho posturing does lead to a lot of shouting, making the text hard to hear and follow in places. To cover transitions, sea songs relevant to the region and lives of the men are sung, much as Wonderland at the Hampstead Theatre employed miner’s songs to evoke the Miner’s Strike of ’84- 85. This I would have found really effective in the auditorium; it can look a little stereotypical through the screen though.
However, Briton directs with a passion, and this play obviously comes from a personal place. The music and movement by Joe Darke, who also worked as an Associate Director, is hugely effective, and the movement on the vessel is stunning. And here’s why you should stick with it, even if your home feels a little too comfortable to be taken out to sea. The exchanges between the men, the posturing, the egos, finally begin to be stripped away as the crew face their own mortality. The last twenty minutes is stunning, deeply moving, and, with very few effects, overwhelms you with waves of emotion. It’s testament to the vitality and uniqueness of theatre, and well worth your time. Although I don’t want to get used to watching theatre online, I’m so glad to have been given the opportunity to watch Bound.