This review originally appeared on www.lowdown.net.au
It takes Bound one black box studio, five brown chairs, one brown table, one naked light bulb, twelve yellow wellingtons, six yellow rain bibs, six yellow rain jackets, and six actors with six voices, and the audience are off the shores of Devon on the trawler The Violet.
The Violet is going out on what was meant to be the crew’s first day of vacation: the biggest seafood buyer in the region has gone into administration, and Skipper Woods (Jesse Briton) has decided to take the boat out again. While the other Skippers are sitting back at the dock, he justifies, The Violet will be the only boat bringing a catch back in.
Joining Woods on The Violet are ever facing off young Graham (Joe Darke) and the learned Alan (James Jaggs); Rhys (Dan Smith) trying to maintain peace; John (James Crocker) trying to deal with his divorce on a boat full of men; and Polack Kirk (Thomas Bennett), the new recruit under much tension. The six men must battle the ills of the recession on an outmoded boat with an ever-decreasing number of nets and an ever-elusive catch of fish, while battling the competition of rival boat The New Hope, and their own fears as they stare down the encroaching storm.
Written and directed by Briton, this play from Bear Trap Theatre Company blends sharp and contemporary written scenes with traditionally influenced sea-shanties sung in a gloriously rich a Capella.
The sound design is wholly a product of six men on stage. A low, soft humming grows into the drone of ship horns; the rattling of rain jackets becomes the rushing of the wind; and here, when the walls of the theatre shake, it isn’t because the base has been turned up loud as it comes through the speakers, it is because the cast are literally pounding at the walls, the oppressive battle of a storm amongst the boat. Metal means nothing out there.
Under Buddug James Jones’s design, there is no set to show the boat, the nets are invisible: this is shown to us through Darke’s movement. As the men curve around the stage there is the outline of the trawler. As they pound their chests, stamp their feet, clap their hands, the nets fall on to the boat. As they rock back and forth we feel the rolling of the waves. The further the men move into the storm, the harder the pitch, and it almost feels as if the whole theatre is rolling, too.
Much like everything else that doesn’t come directly from the men as they stand on stage, the lighting design is bare, often nothing more is used than a wash, dipping slightly on the men as they sing through the scene transitions. As the boat moves further into the storm, the lights drop, until the only light we are seeing on stage is the dim glow of an Exit sign, and the small flame of a match.
This is theatre without the bells-and-whistles. It’s not flashy, but it is strongly crafted dialogue and characters, presented honestly by six fine young actors.
Bound is, at its heart, an exploration of the complexity that can be created from something innately simple.
Bear Trap Theatre presents Bound, written and directed by Jesse Briton. . Musical and movement director Joe Drake, Designer Bud James, Producer Lidsay Fraser. WIth Thomas Bennett, James Crocker, James Jaggs, Joe Drake, Dan Smith and Jesse Briton. At Holden Street Theatres, in the Adelaide Fringe. Season closed.