Roll up, roll up, it’s time for the play. Or is it? When only half of the double act is willing to appear, how will the show go on?
Chris bounds onto the stage: high-energy, camp and irreverant. Part of a mother and son partnership that should be knocking our socks off, he finds himself inexplicably alone and scrabbling to perform their duet as a solo. As the show slowly unravels, so does Chris, and the darker side of this Butlins-esque performance emerges.
Olly Gully gives an exemplary performance as Chris, our harried host. The jokes range from really punny to very funny, particularly his one-man castaway and a hilariously uncool teenager in an educational segment. Although it is clear from the outset that Christine will not appear there are some surprises in store, utilising voice overs, shadow puppetry and the very willing audience. The play does, however, struggle with juggling too many topics without a clear focus. There is the commentary on climate change—particularly the treatment of water and the sea—alongside the plot regarding mental health. Both are salient and important, but it muddies both messages without making either really hit home.
Gully is supremely watchable whatever he is doing, and this is both an enjoyable and thought-provoking production. An examination of mental ill health and the way families struggle to addess it, Sea Words winds up with more punch than judy.
By Deborah Klayman
Sea Words plays at Summerhall until August 27th 2023.