LIVERPUDLIAN sailor Jim was raised on bedtime stories about sea monsters. But, as Narvik recounts, at the outbreak of WWII it transpires that what he needs to fear is much closer to home.
Told as a series of flashbacks as the elderly Jim (Joe Shipman)is knocked unconscious in a fall, Lizzie Nunnery’s play tells the story of his relationship with Norwegian schoolteacher Elsa (Nina Yndis)in a piece touching on love, guilt and betrayal.
More than anything, though, it’s a story about the loss of communication.
Letters sent from Elsa to Jim fail to arrive. Radio signals crackle with interference and ship lights flicker in the dark. Jim’s shipmate Kenny — known as Vincent in Camden and Carlos in Camberwell — surprises him with a kiss.
Yet despite the physical intimacy of Maeve Black’s set, which places the six actors within the metal skeleton of a ship, missed communication is ever present.
And when communication does happen, it has a high price. German collaborators are impaled on railings as traitors and the hatches on the torpedoed ship are battened down at the commander’s order with 78 men inside. They clank on the pipe work for help as they drown.
The percussive musicality of that sound is typical of a production subtitled a play with songs. It’s peppered throughout with shanties and soundscapes created from ghostly keyboard and mandolin, with Nunnery collaborating with Martin Heslop and Vidar Norheim on the score.
This moving and often dream-like look at the fearful consequences of miscommunication in a production by Box of Tricks which highlights an often forgotten part of the war.