Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Review German Skerries


German Skerries
by Robert Holman

On The Rocks

It's often not what's said  but what's left unsaid in Alice Hamilton's cryptic but satisfying production of Robert Holman's 1970s' play German Skerries.

The play's title refers to  rocks in the middle of Teesmouth, Second World War crash site of a German Luftwaffe plane, which act as a geographical, historical and spiritual dividing point where past, present and future intersect.

On a grassy knoll a young worker Jack (George Evans)  from a local ICI plant and an elderly primary school teacher Martin (Howard Ward, the constable in Downton Abbey), curiously old-fashioned but shaping the lives of new generations, come together bonded by a common love of bird watching.

Yet other forces of the late twentieth century  are also bringing change,  risk and dangerous consequences with an impact on the lives of the two men, Jack's young wife Carol  (Katie Moore) and Michael (Henry Everett), ship's pilot and diver friend of the schoolteacher.

And in a sense the audience become twitchers, transported far from their homes to the windswept North Sea shores, to gain rare glimpses into the lives of others. 

First performed four years after the UK joined the EEC, originally the Coal and Steel Community, the new nationalized steelworks loom as large as the rocks.

Yet somewhere behind the cooling towers and fluting birds lies a hinterland of past and present art, as well as industry.  

There is something of  Philip Larkin's poem Church Going in the rhythm of the play, Martin's bike and cycle clips

The sounds of birds and tide merge like the tuning up of an orchestra in George Dennis's delicate but robust soundscape giving the piece a radiophonic feel. James Perkins' wood and gently sloping grass design and the lighting of Simon Gethin Thomas catch both time shifts and psychic space. 

German Skerries with its open ended televisual qualities also reminded TLT of the 1970s film Kes  and some contemporary TV plays

A green light for a  rough hewn yet fragile tapestry of a play with its almost heraldic cormorants and oystercatchers.

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