Tuesday, October 3

To The Ocean – The Greenhouse Theatre

When I think of Canary Wharf, I think of tall buildings and architecture and banks and bankers and the ‘city boys’ stereotype. I don’t immediately think of green spaces, cheap beer, wooden huts, classic literature raps (a fun performance from Julian Shakes Story during pre-show entertainment) and fringe theatre. At least I didn’t until now.

The Greenhouse has taken over a little piece of Jubilee Park, Canary Wharf and turned it into a magical little space with all of the above! Not only that but it is the UK’s first zero zero-waste performance space, everything gets reused.  To The Ocean is staged in the round in a little wooden hut in the park with stones and seashells laid out as set decoration and long pieces of fabric hanging above, the small space brings the audience right up and around the cast at once creating an easy intimacy. 

Written and directed by Oli Savage, To The Ocean is telling of the selkie myth – creatures which can shapeshift between seal and human form. There isn’t a twist or a new version, it is a simple telling of an old story. This production adds original music and song, the cast switch between narration, playing music and various characters. They tell the story of Grace (Laura Kent), a 16 year old girl living inland in a town with her single dad Cameron (Stuart Curlett). Feeling drawn to the sea and in search of her mother (Alice Robinson), Grace recruits Tom (Fintan Quinn) to run away and take the journey to the remote island she originally came from. 

With a simple story, it can feel like cliche and that everything is going to move down a predictable beat, but that works here. The intent is that the storytelling lets the warmth and enthusiasm of the cast shine through – enough to have the audience smiling throughout. In the end, not that much is needed to tell a story. There is a simple joy on stage (well I say stage, but it is really the grass of the park) and it is infectious. Even as the story follows each beat you expect, all of the cast are just a delight and carry us along with them. Particular credit to Fintan Quinn who makes every moment of Tom a joy to watch.

It feels like Oli Savage has got exactly what he intended from both his writing and direction, a stripped back intimate piece of storytelling that is perfectly pitched which brings a smile to not just the audience but the storytellers themselves. It was a little disjointing to be in such a lovely space out by the sea and then all of a sudden back among the tower blocks of Canary Wharf.

Playing until 3rd September, https://www.thegreenhousetheatre.com/

Reviewer: Dave Smith

Reviewed: 22nd June 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.