Cordelia Lynn’s Sea Creatures is beautifully cast at Hampstead Theatre downstairs but punishingly vague
It’s been a moment since I’ve been downstairs at the Hampstead, an intimate studio space that has played host to a wide range of more daring fare than perhaps one might expect in the main house. That experimental remit has receded a little since my days of booking everything there but Cordelia Lynn’s Sea Creatures returns to it with glee, but little return for me at least.
The setting is a house by the sea in which a family of women reside. A man arrives, looking for his lover who was previously a daughter of this household, but neither her sisters nor her mother or her partner have seen her. And so we settle in for an uneasy summer in which very little happens, much is left ambiguous and patience gets tested.
James McDonald’s production does well to try and hold together Lynn’s disparate scenes. She has a clear way with language, an inventive approach which is intermittently beautiful here. And as themes of grief and loss and love and lobsters take their turn under the spotlight, flashes of inspiration shine through the naturalism of Zoë Hurwitz’s set.
But as we push near the two hour mark without an interval or any thread that binds together the whole, the mysterious vibe proves far too frustrating. Even with the likes of Thusitha Jayasundera, Geraldine Alexander and Tom Mothersdale trying their best, the slow burn putters out. June Watson is remarkable in her own show-stopping moment but this is a play to throw back into the water.