“Slick and powerful”
Go see a stage adaptation of an indie film adaptation of an award-winning book they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Luckily, they were right. Popcorn Theatre’s “Submarine” is an undeniably enjoyable piece of theatre, whether you’ve even seen the original work or not – or even if you’re not a fan of indie movies.
Following the adolescent trials of misfit Oliver Tate, “Submarine” addresses themes of love lost, youth reconsidered and the nature of human emotion in relativity; if that all sounds a bit much, rest assured – it never feels overwrought or artsy for art’s sake, staying firmly rooted in it’s homely welsh drab and expertly weaved soundtrack.
Jonas Moore and Rachel Kelly are a tour-de-force as Oliver and leading female Jordana Bevan. There’s such palpable substance in their characterisation, it’s easy to get lost in their characters. Every physical tic and vocal quirk feels energetic yet realistic, aided hugely by a skilled, slick set of supporting actors. A particular favourite was Tom Titherington as the wonderfully ridiculous Graham, who managed to summon laughs up without fail every time he appeared on stage.
And the comedy really is good. Every punchline is unexpected, driven by the sustained, cerebral oddness of Dunthorne’s characters. But Submarine is also a show which pulls no punches in regard to poignant, emotional drama either. The scenes between Jill and Lloyd Tate (Catherine Prior and Josh Hunter) were often heartbreaking in their portrayal of a marriage falling apart – not with a bang, but with a disappointing slump.
But slump seems the right word to describe parts of this show also. Despite it’s strengths, it’s inescapably “indie”: meaning the often manufactured dramatic turns and heightened energy many theatregoers are used to just isn’t present. It stays at a high but disappointingly constant drone which, though it helps it succeed in imitating real life, also meant that certain scenes felt like they needed a little something more.
However, that does little to diminish the strong performances and time-tested writing underpinning a very slick and powerful show. The clever staging, the wonderfully implemented Super-8 footage and the expertly talented cast pull together what for others may have ended up being a tedious and pretentious spectacle. Taking no prisoners when it comes to left-field humour and commentary on the human state, Submarine is definitely a show with six full miles of depth.
Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 25 August)
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