first night

Crushed Shells and Mud

Laura Jane Hepworth takes a trip to the sea with Green Door's production of 'Crushed Shells and Mud'.

Crushed Shells and Mud is a play that is like finding a pearl in an oyster, in the sense that it is rare, unexpected and undoubtedly a joyous find. To be honest, the plot made me slightly cautious at first glance. However, Green Door Theatre Company’s production showcased what is in fact a gripping and chilling play that shocks you deeply like a jump into the freezing cold ocean. It follows the love triangle between the shy yet caring Derek (Kishore Thiagarajan-Walker), the arrogant but charming Vincent (Richard Penney) and the troubled but aloof Lydia (Alice Chambers). The trio spend time in a caravan reminiscing about the ocean nearby. However, feelings soon change when Lydia’s secret is revealed and she struggles to hide the fact that she is affected by a disease that is sweeping England. A disease that, if she were discovered as a carrier, would have deadly consequences.

Firstly, I’d like to praise the selection of venue. The conservatory vibe of the Cassidy Quad almost made me feel like I was transported back into a summer spot in the country, setting the tone nicely for the play. Additionally, the minimal set featuring only a few chairs, an old tyre and some pallets for actors to sit on was a nice touch. But what Head of Set Design and Construction (Rachel Miller) should really be praised for was the creation of an actual caravan structure which formed the heart of the play. The fact that it had an actual working light showed remarkable attention to detail and most potently, the use of a transparent flap as a window really allowed the reveal of Lydia’s secret to be incredibly mysterious and intriguing to us as an audience. Despite there being many good elements to the set, I must say that I felt slightly let down by the use of projection at the show’s beginning. For me, I didn’t really understand what was going on and felt like I was watching a rather blurry advertising trailer instead of it being used to set the scene, which I assume was its desired effect. Whilst it was clearly well made and impressively shot, I cannot help but feel slightly disappointed by the poor display quality and felt it added an unnecessary element of confusion.

Costuming was well done, especially those of Lydia and the Old Lady (Mary Lord). For this co-producers Julia Atherley and Ben George should be commended. Although I must point out that there was a slight lack of continuity with Peter’s costume (Marcus Dell), as Vincent specifically named him as a person wearing a leather jacket when he was actually wearing a denim one. Though this is of course a very minor point and personally I think the choice of a denim jacket was more suitable, but I would recommend a small script change.

The real gem of this play though was the acting. Given the rather different and competing concepts of love, but also political ideology and hatred, Eleri Crossland as director did an incredible job of balancing these challenging themes. Thiagarajan-Walker’s reserved but affectionate performance balanced very well with Chambers’ equally reserved nature, particularly in the beginning. However, I was especially touched by the sweet emotion conveyed between the two during Sarah’s (Mikki Redhead) monologue towards the end, finding their light touching of fingers to be extremely moving. Additionally, Dell’s energetic-borderline-psychotic performance also stood out, handling the role of a fanatic with just the right amount of exaggeration for it to remain believable. I must point out that, at points, I found Penney’s cockiness to be a tad unrealistic and stilted, particularly when he expressed his interest in Lydia. However, he made up for this greatly when showing his hatred of her upon discovering the extent of her betrayal. All cast members balanced well with one another and gave good performances for an opening night.

Overall, Crushed Shells and Mud is an unexpected gem of a play. It features solid acting and an intriguing plot line that picks up momentum as the performance progresses. For those looking for a departure from their summatives, take a dip in the sea down at Chad’s this weekend.

11 March 2017

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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