Review: The Deep Blue Sea

Seán O'Neill 17 October 2019

Terrence Rattigan’s 20th century classic makes a dazzling turn in its role as this week’s ADC Main.

Clara Morel’s captivating performance radiates an intimate intensity, sustained and augmented by an equally sensitive and intelligent supporting cast. Mariam Abdel-Razek’s direction is subtle and smart, displaying a proficiency with naturalism perfectly complemented by the highly commendable set design and technical direction provided by Michelle Spielberg.

Morel’s performance as Hester Collyer marks her as one of the most exciting actors currently involved in student theatre in Cambridge. Aside from the ways Morel’s habitation of Hester is expressed in her speech and action, she delivers a depth of reaction, a sense of continual inner life for the inhabited character which utterly convinces and implies, without needing to make explicate, the layers of Hester’s despair. Morel’s expressiveness during a scene where Hester has to listen to a painfully out of touch monologue from Philip Welch (Leon Hewitt) particularly shines through her silent emotive journey.

Image credit: David Swarbrick

Hewitt in turn offers an outstanding performance, understatedly nailing the vaguely comedic Mr Welch while — and this goes for the entire cast — succeeding impressively in coming across as much older than his years. Special mentions should also be given to Sophie Kean and Ben Galvin, playing the characters of Mr Miller and Freddie Page respectively. Kean commands an aura of relaxed experience, delivering the precise timing of Miller’s amusing deadpan as well as his passionate, avuncular side with deft accent work and impressive range. While Galvin in turn fills Freddie Page’s shoes with gusto without sacrificing — and in fact nurturing — the character’s complex sympathetic aspects, his real triumphs are on full display when working alongside Morel; their scenes together were a delight to watch. On the whole, this is a cast who support and propel each other beyond the prodigious talents of its individuals.

Image credit: David Swarbrick

The space in which these performances play out is lovingly designed by Michelle Spielberg, assisted by Craig Stewart, whose significant labour and attention to detail has crafted an impressively realised set. While Spielberg and Stewart’s set grounds the action in a completely convincing domestic setting, her work as Technical Director, alongside Lighting Designer Lara Mandell, is equally successful in providing a powerful subtlety to the play’s conclusion. Subtlety is happily a common theme in this production; as director, Mariam Abdel-Razek’s work remains impressively well-obscured, crafting scenes so naturally that hardly a finger print is left to indicate a staging decision has been made and giving, instead, the impression that the play’s characters are moving of their own accord.

Image credit: David Swarbrick

While watching “The Deep Blue Sea”, I became aware of a strange sense of pride; aware that, as a theatrical community, such success on stage is treated as almost routine. Seeing this company’s accomplishment woke me up a little to the feast of talent currently at large in Cambridge, and excited me to see what more they can bring us. This is a triumph of student theatre, hopefully one of many this term, and I can only hope that, now and in future, we don’t take such achievements for granted.

5 stars.