By Sutton Vane
27 February - 4 March, 2017
The play is about a group of seven passengers who meet in the lounge of an ocean liner at sea and realise that they have no idea why they are there, or where they are bound. But the travellers have more in common than they dare to suspect. Out at sea, an eerie calm settles over the ship as each of them eventually discovers that they are dead, and that they have to face judgment from an Examiner, who will determine whether they are to go to Heaven or Hell.
When they are finally convinced that this is no ordinary journey, they decide to combine forces for the purpose of meeting the Examiner, who is to come aboard at the end of the journey. When the Examiner sorts out the sheep from the goats, there are surprises in store for the passengers. Two of them, a young couple, are not called: they are half-ways, two suicides who refuse to face life. Now, with this momentous choice before them, they finally decide to return to the world, which they may face with greater courage.
On the face of it, a play about a disparate group of people sailing along to their eternal destinies, their fate to be determined at the end of the voyage, doesnít seem like cheerful late-winter fare. But itís not quite so simple in this interesting fantasy/drama. Written in that strange time, at the dawn of the Jazz Age, with the wounds from the Great War still raw and with the established system of class and privilege showing its first cracks, the play has a lot to say about Life. And it does it with a degree of humour. The characters are fairly stereotypical: the hard-hearted businessman, the appalling snob with the double-barrelled name, the bumbling, kind clergyman, the humble yet feisty charwoman; but Sutton Vane weaves together their back stories, and all that led them to this point, with skill. Do they all get their just desserts? You decide.
Audiences in the 1920s wanted value for money of course and were quite happy to sit through a three-hour plus offering and there are in truth some fairly rambling sections in this play which donít seem to add to the piece, but trust us, weíve cleared out quite a lot! As always, a production needs talented and committed actors (CHECK), imaginative set design and construction (CHECK), sourcing of costumes and props sympathetic to the period (CHECK), creative lighting and sound (CHECK) and an efficient stage management team- in this case under the reassuringly calm control of Gordon Lakin (CHECK).
So what could possibly go wrong?
We hope you enjoy your evening.