Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Review: SALT-WATER MOON, Finborough Theatre

Review: SALT-WATER MOON, Finborough Theatre

David French's 1984 award-winning play receives its British premiere.

Review: SALT-WATER MOON, Finborough Theatre

It's 1926 and Jacob Mercer has returned to Coley's Point, the small fishing village in Newfoundland where he grew up to find that Mary Snow, his childhood sweetheart, is now engaged to a wealthy suitor. Still distraught by his sudden departure to Toronto a year earlier, she has no intention of indulging him, but Jacob is stubborn and resourceful. She remains drawn to him in spite of her better judgement and rationale, and he knows it.

David French's semi-autobiographical award-winning Canadian classic receives its British premiere 38 years after its debut, but it appears it's not a timeless play. Much has changed since then and, directed by Peter Kavanagh, Salt-Water Moon comes off as quite the tired shadow of a love story.

It gives Bryony Miller the opportunity to give an impressive, intense performance as her character slowly melts and warms up to Joseph Potter's Jacob. She meets his arrogant grimace with a sombre, stoic gaze that burns into him before his proximity makes her speech falter and her breath quicken. He dangles their shared past like a sword of Damocles, rehashing old acrimony between his family and her fiancé's, measuring the men's worth according to their position and valiance in the First World War.

With the tale set in the British Empire and their display of characteristic values, Jacob's rant isn't surprising, but is overdone. French tightens his grip on the sociopolitical appearance of the allegiance, reflecting it against the viewpoints of two older teenagers who had to grow wise beyond their years in the face of the aftermath and fallout of the war. Even though they ultimately reconnect and their destiny is left open-ended, it's evident that their responsibilities are worlds apart.

Mary's gender ties her fate to her choice of man. Jerome's wealth and stability would give her the chance to shape a brighter future for her children and rescue her sister from the home where she is mistreated and abused. She is ready to sacrifice her happiness, but Jacob convinces her to follow her heart. Too bad we don't even catch a glimpse of Mary's feelings for him, with the character mainly pushing back his efforts to reaffirm their relationship.

It doesn't help that Potter comes off as utterly unlikeable and pushy. He chastises her for the actions of her soon-to-be father-in-law, briefly examining the wrongdoings he perpetrated against his family as well as, to an extent, their country. He refuses to see her point of view or empathise with her struggle. It should be an epic attempt to follow one's heart, but it's difficult to dissociate their choices from the duties of the time. The piece would have more weight if Mary chose to stay and marry Jerome.

Finborough's minuscule space magnifies the angst and troubles of the pair. He has Miller rein in Potter's cocky meanderings into boyish moods in a close game of melodramatic exchanges. An iron-wrought bench painted white and a matching coffee table are the only companions of the couple other than Jacob's battered suitcase in Mim Houghton's set. They're enveloped by relative darkness while soft light bulbs connected by ugly wiring act as stars against the rounded walls. The visuals are occasionally atmospheric, but mostly average.

Kavanagh handles the actors like an elastic band, playing with the distance between them at the start, gradually joining them centre-stage with meticulous choices. The show gives a glimpse of the Newfoundland climate after the Great War, but it's tempered by a weak finale. It's easy to understand and rationalise the play's original reception, but, four decades later and in a different country with different politics, its noise is rather muffled.

Salt-Water Moon runs at Finborough Theatre until 28 January.

Photo Credit: Lucy Hayes

Photos: See New Images of TITANIC THE MUSICAL UK and Ireland Tour Photo
Brand new production photographs of the cast of Titanic The Musical have been released  (21 March 2023) as the show continues its journey of the UK and Ireland.

Creative Team Set for Ariana DeBose at the London Palladium Photo
FOURTH WALL LIVE has announced the full creative team, band, singers and dancers joining Oscar, BAFTA, and SAG Award winning actor, singer, and dancer ARIANA DEBOSE at the London Palladium.

TREASON THE MUSICAL Takes Autumn Tour to Edinburgh, Sheffield and London Photo
This Autumn will see the highly anticipated British musical premiere its first full production in select theatres across the UK. Kicking off with a bang on 25 October at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Treason will continue to Sheffield Lyceum Theatre on 31 October and finally explode into London's Alexandra Palace from 08 – 18 November.

Photos: Inside Press Night For THE WAY OLD FRIENDS DO at the Park Theatre Photo
Check out all new photos from press night of The Way Old Friends Do at the Park Theatre!

From This Author - Cindy Marcolina

Italian export. Member of the Critics' Circle (Drama). Also a script reader and huge supporter of new work. Twitter: @Cindy_Marcolina

... (read more about this author)

Review: CONTEMPT, VAULT FestivalReview: CONTEMPT, VAULT Festival
March 19, 2023

While the writing is gripping and Gabrielle Nellis-Pain’s performance is excellent, there’s something missing. Catherine’s colleagues are ancient ghosts through the hallowed corridors as she puts on a sleazy, raspy voice to portray them against her well-spoken main character.

March 19, 2023

You are going to die. It’s a certainty, but it’s also the title of the latest play by This is Not Culturally Significant writer Adam Scott-Rowley. Performed entirely naked, You Are Going To Die is a show about everything and nothing. You can read as much or as little as you wish in it. What does it deal with? We’d love to know - we came out of it with more questions than answers. It feels like a social experiment or an impenetrable piece of performance art. It might just be simply throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks.

Review: FREAK OUT!, VAULT FestivalReview: FREAK OUT!, VAULT Festival
March 19, 2023

Coin Toss Collective are an exceptionally creative young company. Freak Out! highlights a problem that wouldn’t cross the mind of the average British person who lives in the inland. They deliver an amusing, chaotic farewell to East Anglia. Who would’ve thought that a show about coastal erosion would be so cool!

Review: VANILLA, VAULT FestivalReview: VANILLA, VAULT Festival
March 19, 2023

Laura Mead writes with prudish humour while Keith Swainston directs her, Ned Wakeley (Dan), and Scott Henderson in a production that’s almost as uninteresting as Katie and Dan’s sex life. Mead’s script is as traditional as the missionary position, but wishes to be as funny as an inappropriate joke at a funeral. She gives her character a silver tongue and wit for days, and she’s great at delivering too, but the plot is awkwardly stale in its predictability.

Review: BURNOUT, VAULT FestivalReview: BURNOUT, VAULT Festival
March 19, 2023

This approach has the story losing focus and looks like a plain attempt at quirkiness. Ultimately, while they mention how difficult it is to have only one hour, the piece comes off as struggling to fill those 60 minutes. All in all, the spirit of Burnout is strong and the creatives behind it have all the right ideas. Perhaps a stronger grasp on a more developed plot might help this naive call to arms.