Life-long friendships, family ties, class differences; and that’s just the first scene of Tallulah Brown’s new play, Sea Fret, which has opened at The Old Red Lion Theatre. Directed by Carla Kingham, the stage is strewn with pebbles, surrounding a lop-sided pillbox on the Suffolk coast. Waves crash in the background and the lighting brings the beach alive.
It’s clear that this beach has proved to be a playground for the two girls at the centre of the play, along with all of their peers. It’s not just the euphoric rave music and harsh strobe lighting that tells us this, the writing takes us on a very clear journey that reveals itself piece by piece as the play progresses.
Lucy and Ruby have been friends, and neighbours, since childhood, the former more reserved and well-behaved but not adverse to being led astray by the latter. As the rising sea levels threaten their homes and the ground slips away, so too does their friendship, when Lucy takes up a place at university. Ruby, initially determined to lead a wild lifestyle has a change of heart, partly for her father’s sake, and partly in remorse for a tragedy she causes.
Playing Ruby is Lucy Carless in her stage debut, and is by no means a fish out of water. She is confident in the role and displays the emotional maturity for the character she portrays, it’s a lovely performance that helps to bring the story alive. Georgia Kerr is Lucy, and really brings out the awkwardness of the character, as she tries to keep pace with her wayward friend. Karen Brooks plays the stereotypical mother, Pam, while Philippe Spall plays the less conventional father, Jim.
Despite the fairly niche scenario, Sea Fret portrays everyday life in all its unabashed glory. No matter the situation at hand, teenage girls are trying to lose their virginity, mothers are worrying and single fathers are working out how to cope. All of this is laid bare alongside a storyline few of us will ever experience (unless we happen to own a cliff top home overlooking the beautiful Sussex coast-line) but really strong writing makes it easy to identify with the life-long friendships, family ties and class differences which extend beyond that opening scene to every part of this beautifully crafted production.