St Albans theatre group take you over the sea and far away

PUBLISHED: 16:12 18 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:53 06 May 2010

SUSPEND belief and a former bookshop annexe in the city centre really does become the heart of an old Irish seafaring community in the 1930s in the hands of drama group OVO. And it just goes to show that with the use of just a red sail and remarkably effe

SUSPEND belief and a former bookshop annexe in the city centre really does become the heart of an old Irish seafaring community in the 1930s in the hands of drama group OVO.

And it just goes to show that with the use of just a red sail and remarkably effective lighting, even the most unlikely venue and sparse staging can be transformed into an effective set.

But what really makes Married to the Sea, the play by Shona McCarthy which OVO is performing at its Sumpter Yard premises, so mesmerising is the excellent direction by Jo Emery and an enthusiastic and talented cast.

The story of the decline of Galway's old Claddagh seafaring community is narrated by eight-year-old Jo with the remaining nine parts taken by four actors.

Through the eyes of a child, we learn how the devastation of a way of life is mirrored in the disintegration of a family - yet the incorrigible spirit of the child is never entirely quelled.

Newcomer to OVO Louise Edwards gives a remarkably good performance as Jo. She brings out the humour of a child's view of the world and the shock when the happy and innocent life of a youngster goes awry.

It is never easy for an adult to play the part of a child but Louise gets it so right that you never think of her as any older than eight years.

Director Jo Emery takes the role of Mam, worn down by years of poverty, the loss of her son and an absent husband, and Belfast-born Mial Pagan is well cast as Jo's Daddy.

Kieran Cummins proves his versatility yet again in a variety of roles, ranging from Jo's childhood friend Mikey, her Granny and as the priest. Clearly an expert at quick costume changes, he imbues all the roles he takes with humour as well as more than a touch of pathos.

Completing a very talented cast is Angharad Pugh-Jones as Jo's nemesis Teresa Naughton, the cuckoo in the family nest.

Married to the Sea is very evocative - you can almost hear the gulls wheeling and the cries of the fishermen - and it is one of those plays where, if you shut your eyes, you could imagine it working just as well on radio.

It was an imaginative step to stage it in such a small performing space but it really works.

There are two remaining opportunities to see Married to the Sea - tonight and Saturday. Further information and tickets can be obtained by calling 07807 521436 or online at www.ovo.org.uk

MADELEINE BURTON


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