The Spring Tide

Rating *****
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes

The Spring Tide
Old Red Lion Theatre
5th September 2013

Writer Carol Vine admits that it took a while for her to find this play, but find it she did. The Spring Tide is very much a modern love story and one that anyone who has ever been scared or unsure of who they are will be able to associate with.

Flitting backwards and forwards between the lives of Lan (Nellie McQuinn and Anita Parry) and Suzy (Lorena Vila and Melanie Ramsay), the production tells their story, starting with their days at school and ending with their adult life.

We watch them as friends, flatmates, lovers and strangers and observe how different their lives were when they were younger and how the decisions they made in their adulthood have helped to shape their lives.

Choosing to have each of the two main characters portrayed by two different actors is a stroke of genius, as each scene is clearly recognisable as past or present. All four women are strong actors, bringing their characters to life and working well together. The audience are in no doubt at all of the characters’ emotions.

The two young girls especially have a believable relationship, with real natural tenderness between them. We physically see them grow up, watching their childish friendship turn into something more emotional as their lives become more entwined.

The older Lan and Suzy have a slightly different relationship – but the awkwardness and longing is clearly visible. When Suzy’s husband Tim (Matthew Ashforde) is also present, you could cut the tension with a knife and the audience are uncomfortably aware of this.

When all four women are on the stage together, the nostalgic glances of the older Lan and Suzy bring past and present sharply into the future, as we await the play’s climax, guessing what it will be, but not knowing how it will happen.

When it does, it’s not (as expected) told through a monologue, but by a character we haven’t met before. Although this worked fairly well, it felt almost too unknown, as the audience had grown close to the main characters and the effect could perhaps have been stronger if events had been told by Suzy, alone on stage with her candle.

However, the real surprise of The Spring Tide is Pierro Niel Mee (Lewis, Suzy’s troubled teenage son). He brilliantly encompasses everything one would expect from a slightly confused child. His body language, expression and tone are extremely well-observed and despite his history, he makes the audience warm to him. His awkwardness is particularly endearing, as is the way he uses his body throughout.

Space in the theatre is limited, but the use of tea chests and very few props makes the stage seem bigger, and works really well. The intimacy also adds to the emotion that the audience feel, because we are so close to the performers and can see their blood, sweat and tears.

Music is haunting, perfectly suiting the piece, whilst the frequent sound of the sea is used to great effect. Not only did I have goosebumps, but at one point I was blinking back tears. The audience share in each emotion of the cast and are truly immersed in the play.

Although some might find the amount of swearing slightly excessive, The Spring Tide is an emotive, intelligent and almost flawless production.