Photograph: Oliver Bryant. Jenny Walser and Jack Brownridge-Kelly pictured
‘In My Lungs The Ocean Swells’ is a beautiful, multi-layered and delicately designed piece of theatre. Natasha Kaeda has written a lyrical play, that is rich with evocative language and imagery. Elements of the text feel like pure poetry, particularly in the moments the characters are processing their emotions. While anecdotal and mythological elements possess the warmth, depth and anarchy of prose. As someone with a passion for new writing, this is a play I’d love to curl up with and read, to savour the exquisite descriptions within it.
That is not to say this isn’t a successful piece of drama. Far from it. This is a very accomplished play. We follow the story of childhood sweethearts Julie (Jenny Walser) and Simon (Jack Brownridge-Kelly) as they grow up and have to deal with the decline of the fishing industry that generations of their families have relied on. Julie can see life in other places, even as it seems to be drying up at home. She is the pragmatist. Simon was born to be a fisherman. What will he do when there aren’t enough fish left to catch? Both Walser and Brownridge-Kelly give sensitive and engrossing performances in this balanced and thought-provoking two-hander. The design (Grace Venning), lighting (Joe Price) and sound (Annie May Fletcher) work seamlessly together to build the sense of the ocean. At times I could almost taste the salt on my lips, and at one point the sound of waves brought tears to my eyes.
Director Tash Hyman weaves together all these elements in a way that gently pulled me into the world of the play, before quietly devastating me. Community and heritage clash with a modern, urban world that undervalues these things. This is an eye-opening piece about the loss fishing towns are experiencing. It isn’t just about lost income and opportunities, it is about the trauma that comes with an endangered way of life.
‘In My Lungs The Ocean Swells’ runs at the Vault Festival until 9th February.