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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Box Theatre Company - The Sea

27th to 30th April 2016

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Box raise the theatrical bar

Box Theatre: The Sea, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from Wednesday, April 27, to Saturday, April 30

Edward Bond's The Sea was a challenging choice for the Box Theatre's latest production at The Watermill and it was an impressive performance, skilfully directed by Gavin Slaughter, with a splendid cast.

First produced in 1973, it is a tragic comedy set in 1907, in a small east coast village.

It starts dramatically with a huge storm similar to Shakespeare's Tempest, when a young man is drowned, despite the local draper being a paid coastguard, to keep a watch for such incidents and provide assistance.

Neal Murray gives a superb, convincing and powerful performance as the draper Hatch, who believes that aliens visit in the evening and are determined to take over the minds of the local community

His nemesis is Mrs Rafi, the elderly lady of the manor – a cross between Lady Bracknell and the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Downton Abbey) – beautifully played by Tracey Donnelly.

Hatch depends on her patronage of his shop in order to survive, but she is nearly bankrupting him by ordering special cloth, returning it and refusing to pay, which drives him into a downward spiral towards mental torment and finally raving lunacy. There is a particularly good scene with him cutting up bolts of cloth in utter desperation.

Alex Cameron-Watts perfectly captures Rafi's long-suffering companion Mrs Tilehouse. Also within this close-knit community we meet Rose Jones (Beth West), who is sadly waiting for her boyfriend's body to be discovered.

His funeral is attended by all the villagers, with some decidedly dodgy hymn singing.

Neil Dewdney is the stranger Carson, who is regarded with suspicion, being the only survivor of the boat accident.

This play raises questions about how society treats outsiders and is certainly relevant to today. It explores the need for society to change and how this is to be achieved.

The reclusive alcoholic Evens, a totally delightful performance by Keith Keer, lives on the beach and has rejected society "If they put you through a ringer you could start a brewery," says one of the villagers.

Other members of the community include the bumbling vicar (Mike Huxtable), Paul Shave as Carter and Jamie Evans as young Billie, and there is excellent support from the large confident ensemble, who play the other characters with zest.

Box Theatre's aim has always been to bridge the gap between amateur and professional theatre and with this excellent production they have certainly raised the bar to achieve their aspiration.