‘Port’ at the Lyttleton Theatre

I don’t think I’m the target audience for Port by Simon Stephens, currently on at the Lyttleton.  I simply couldn’t share in the enthusiastic applause of my fellow audience members.

If nostalgia is the generation of fond memories of the past, then this is part of that thing that is the opposite, the compulsive recollection of unhappy adolescence twenty years ago.  It’s another misery story of northern bleakness and children physically abandoned by their mother and emotionally left by their drunken father, dragging themselves up through jobs in a supermarket, prison and abusive relationships involving a lot of shouting and tedious swearing.

The play covers a period of 13 years from 1988, and the same actors play the characters at ages from 11.  The actress who took the central role of Racheal, and who is on stage throughout the show, was very good, apart from using a rather annoying high pitched whiny voice in the early scenes to depict her character’s youth.

But I found the production curiously static.  I was in the seats in the slips, which are at the back and the side of the balcony; their distance from the stage and the slightly strained angle at which you have to sit to see the whole stage are reflected in the economy price, but still I felt it was a bit unfortunate that all the action in both the first and final scenes of the play took place at the extreme edge of the stage which was not visible to me unless I really leant out and over.

It had been sufficiently uncomfortable in the first scene, that by the time it got to the final I decided to sit back and at ease in my seat without watching the stage at all, simply listening to the actors speak.  I don’t think I missed anything by not being able to see them.  I can’t help but feel that there is something lacking in a stage production if it doesn’t matter that you can’t see the actors.

The blurb for the play is that it is a celebration of the human spirit as Racheal looks to the future and opts for something better.  I could not disagree more with that as a description.  It seemed to me to be all about limitations and low expectations, and very depressingly so.  It would have been much more true to the description to see an altogether better narrative than the clichéd it’s grim oop north scenarioto see something showing a person with truly high ambitions and really striving for something better.

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