Have you heard about a creature called a selkie? No? Well, before Lorraine & Alan at the The Brewery Theatre on Tuesday night, neither had I. Selkies are mythological creatures found in Scottish, Irish, and Faroese folklore. Similar creatures are described in the Icelandic traditions. Selkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land. Loraine and Alan brings this mythology bang up to date in this funny, sweet and poignant tale. Alan (played by Adam Farrell) is a 23 year old recent graduate in Marine Biology. (High 2.2.) He is a son of Blakeney, Norfolk. By night he hides in the bedroom of his childhood home, by day he is a seal tour guide extraordinaire. And a little lacking in get up and go. Alan finds Lorraine (played by Katie Sherrard) lying, barely conscious, amongst the seals he knows so well from his tours. She is like no woman he has ever met and their lives collide and become entwined. But what is the mystery that Lorraine cannot quite conceal? Where does she really belong?
We walk in to The Brewery to the sounds of the sea. Immediately I am home. I close my eyes for a moment, and I am transported to the place I love the most. I feel my own internal pull to the sea, something that is often present. I am used to sparse staging at the Brewery, so the hundreds of bottles of water all around the stage were an interesting and welcome accompaniment. They represented the sea. They represented the characters. They represented emotion. They were used for comedy props. They were even used to conjure endings and beginnings. They were a simple yet clever tool for helping the story come to life.
Lorraine and Alan is a sweet tale of love and young lovers, but also a cautionary tale for those of you who might think that love is enough. It isn’t! Love is nothing unless you are free to be who you really are, free to pursue the other things in life that fill you with passion. You are destined for unhappiness if the person you love prevents you from pursuing the things that make you whole. Alan is a sweet, albeit slightly feckless young man. Underneath it all though he has the makings of an obsessive, controlling lover. Perhaps it is because he senses the danger inherent in his love for Lorraine. Maybe he senses he will always lose her to the pull of the sea. I can forgive him his controlling ways, forgive him that he takes his love to the most landlocked part of the UK to escape his parents, but mainly in an attempt to stop her escaping him. He is naive and completely lacking in experience in women, but Farrell plays him with boyish charm. Feckless or not, you can’t help but like him. Lorraine is special, if a little weird. And obsessed with 4 hour baths, licking the salt off peanuts and eating tuna direct from the can. Maybe Alan would not have fallen for her if he had experienced more women before her. But whatever the case, it is clear he loves her, and she loves him.
The soundtrack blends Celtic folk music, electronica, sound effects, spoken word and beats with seamless perfection. I barely noticed the musicians David Ripley and Becky Ripley at the edge of all the action, but they were central to it and should be credited for doing their job perfectly. They held the piece together, but never intruded on the unfolding love affair between our two main characters.
The legend of the selkie is foremost a romantic tragedy. There is either a lover who must choose between returning to the sea or staying with her love whilst knowing neither will make her truly happy, or a controlling lover who will not let the selkie go. The tale of Lorraine and Alan does not stray from these conclusions, but I found it strangely uplifting. Perhaps because at its core, the creators wanted the show to be funny and visually interesting, with a spectacular and emotive soundscape. And it is really, really sweet, whilst never being sickly.
Lorraine and Alan is a little rough around the edges but extremely interesting. It is not the most polished piece of theatre I have seen of late, but its energy and individuality carried it to great heights. This was probably one of the least well-supported shows I have seen at The Brewery, which is a real shame. It has a lot to offer, and I hope the crowds pick up for the rest of the run, the cast deserve it. Lorraine and Alan is presented by The Bucket Club, and I applaud them for bringing something really fresh and young to the stage.
And right now? I’m incredibly happy for the freedoms my partner affords me. Its gone midnight. But I really, REALLY fancy a swim…
Lorraine and Alan is on at The Brewery Theatre until Saturday 18th April. On Thursday 16th, there is a question and answer session after the show with the cast and the director. For more information, click on this link.