Thursday, 31 March 2016

'German Skerries' Orange Tree Theatre ****

Being a human being involves a considerable amount of events such as; friendships, marriage, vacations and the unfortunate thing that is death, nevertheless can all these situations be presented in a 90 minute play. The Orange Tree Theatre’s production of Robert Holman’s 1977 play, ‘German Skerries’ was a first-rate production about how people meet and how people say goodbye to one another, moreover, the performances were very distinguished.

‘German Skerries’ is set on a vantage point in Teeside, 1976 which oversees the River Tee estuary where we are acquainted with 23 year old factory worker, Jack who is sprawling on the grass with his telescope as he’s interested in not only bird watching but the cargo ships in the sea transporting the goods. He soon comes into contact with 59 year old school teacher, Martin and they instantly make small talk about their up-and-coming holidays and their tyrannical wives. It appears that Jack has an ambition to gain a place on a training course as his current occupation in the factory is far too poultry than what he wants for his life, nonetheless, what he is missing is confidence. In addition to this, Martin has had his fair share of disappointments as his own mother when he was the same age as Jack was pressurised into remaining in Teeside rather than pursuing his own ambitions to leave home and the area itself.  Throughout the performance, Jack’s wife, Carol whose life is a bit more stable, on the other hand, we are observant to see that she can delicate at times and her hot-tempered approach enables us to the two side of their marriage. When they venture out to the same location one night, a collision in the local new steel works soon infringes their evening as Michael who is a ship’s pilot has been injured due to the fact that an underwater pipe has backfired right in front of him and understandably he is in a pretty bad way and it is up to Jack and Carol to save his life. Martin tries to help Jack to build on his confidence as Jack’s opinion of himself is low and so is Jack’s wife as we learn that he has applied for the course before and has been unsuccessful. What is poignant is how concerned Jack and Martin are about the state of the environment which has been blighted by the new steel works even though Jack works there; as such it depicts how industrialism has eradicated the British landscape. At the finale, Martin finally gets to meet Jack’s wife, Carol and it seems that she thinks that Martin is a pleasant one indeed, furthermore, it allows us to see how important the place is to people as a way to escape the reality of their own lives which could be mundane. Holman’s narrative is compelling as we can see that the direction in which life does to us on a regular basis and the suggestion that every single person has a link, albeit without our knowledge, also I am surprised that this is the first revival since its first premiered four decades ago. 

One found the performances by the company of, ‘German Skerries’ to be fascinating as we can see how each role has their own struggles to deal with, plus, the delivery of their vocal characteristics through to their movement executions. George Evans is wondrous as under-confident, Jack; especially how he really wants to be accepted onto the course and along the way we see this lack of confidence diminish with the help of Martin and Carol, in addition, his little moment with Carol near the shed shows how love could be his buoyancy booster. Howard Ward is excellent as teacher, Martin; chiefly where we see that his own wife finds him irritating and send him up to the hill to get out of her hair; plus, there are lovely scenes with himself and Jack and it comes across that there’s a small father-son bond here. Katie Moore is fantastic as Jack’s wife, Carol; essentially where we can see that the marriage between her and Jack is actually quite liberating, but her goal of helping Jack get the confidence to get the place he desires on the course shows how much she wants him to do well. Henry Everett is fine as the ship pilot, Michael; for example how the little flashes that he is present in the show conveys how his own marriage is being wrecked by some force and this may be the steel works that he works at and when the way in which he comes to seek help for his tragic accident portrays some of the ill-fated parts that life has to throw us. 

Alice Hamilton’s direction is marvellous here as she has fruitfully directed a play with clearly defined characters and we are taken into how each life can be interconnected in some way and the journey of both Jack and Martin shows how people who have gone through similar situations can give you the most useful advice. James Perkins’ design is resplendent as the Teeside bird watching hotspot has been perfectly brought into the in-the-round configuration of the Orange Tree and the actual scenic art and construction is awesome too and the costumes engrosses us into the 1970’s atmosphere. Overall, the experience of, ‘German Skerries’ to be such a fitting undertone of the many moments that makes us a human being in terms of life’s many challenges and it’s a divine revival which is much deserved.

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