It’s not often that part of a stage setting receives a spontaneous round of applause all of its own, but then it’s also quite rare that a stage setting involves a real 22 foot boat floating in 69,000 litres of water inside a theatre.
Though the boat may be the undisputed star of Way Upstream at the Chichester Festival Theatre, she does at least have a dazzling supporting cast on stage alongside her.
Alan Acykbourn’s play about 4 work colleagues spending a 2 week holiday aboard a small boat has all the ingredients of an intriguing plot. Confined spaces, simmering tensions and one man who believes he knows it all about sailing.
Chichester is of course the perfect setting to put on this production. Many of the laughs in the audience came from women married to men who think they know it all about sailing or from people who can recall all to precisely that feeling of enforced proximity with friends aboard ship, but this is a play whose appeal will translate to an audience of landlubbers too.
Jill Halfpenny plays Emma the meek wife of the even meeker Alaistair (Jason Hughes) who spends most of the voyage wrapped in a life jacket and making tea below deck. Keith (Peter Forbes) is the aforementioned self-appointed Skipper and June (Sarah Parish) his bored over-dressed wife.
Early on things start to go wrong when they are fobbed off by the hire company with an older smaller boat than they had booked and when Keith’s secretary (for this is the 1980s, before the invention of PAs) arrives on the river bank to give daily updates on the business.
But there are two more crew members to throw into this heady concoction. The enigmatic Vince and his posh bird-watching friend Fleur. All is not quite what it seems and rapidly life aboard boat turns from something like Great Canal Journeys to something more akin to Lord Of The Flies
Will relations between the characters resolve themselves and will Alaistair learn to stand up for himself and perhaps more importantly his wife?
It’s intriguing to watch the story develop and equally so to watch the set evolve around the cast as the boat travels elegantly around its small tank. Make time to see it before the tickets sell out.
- Way Upstream
Chichester Festival Theatre
23 April – 16 May
Review by the lovely Clare : After many years living a peripatetic life with the forces, Clare recently moved back to her home county of Sussex where she lives with her husband, son and two dogs. Clare writes at family and lifestyle blog at maybushstudio.com and enjoys cooking, sewing and (of course) regular trips to the theatre.