Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Into the Deep

Ed Lees
Lucy Russell and Grace Hart and Popcorn Productions
LEAF on Portland Street, Manchester
08 July 2018 to 10 July 2018


Into the Deep is an intergenerational tale of everyday fishing folk but it is certainly not a cosy Archers-style drama. Fisherman Thomas Lewin (Ed Lees who also wrote the play) is determined to move away from the aggressive parenting and business methods used by his father but finds events conspire to prevent him from achieving his ideals. He was raised by William (Chris Alldridge) a racist homophobe whose abusive behaviour drove away Thomas’s mother and who is prone to settling disputes with his fists. Thomas’s wife dies early and his daughter Carla (Polly Wain) has psychotic episodes. Financial worries may prevent son Marlon (Ned Costello) from accepting a place at a prestigious university and William seems to be immortal but requires support.

Into the Deep is told in a non-linear manner with the story jumping back and forth across timelines. Due to the fragmented approach it takes some time to identify the theme of the play as being the extent to which Thomas is trapped by circumstances and denied the chance to break the cycle of violence and poverty that haunts his family.  The script is in the style of Quentin Tarantino with characters concealing their feeling by making lengthy arguments about trivial matters like potholes or the correct way to pronounce the name ’Paxman.’

Author Ed Lees plays Thomas Lewin in a haunted manner as if he is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Rather than attempt to enact Thomas and William at different ages in a physical manner Lees and Alldridge rely on explanatory dialogue to demonstrate their ages. But this verbal approach is in accord with a production where pretty much all of the story is told by the characters arguing around a kitchen table. There is a realistic relationship between Wain and Costello as squabbling siblings.

Director Layla Madanat sets an antagonistic atmosphere early on with a wordless opening sequence of the cast rushing about performing daily tasks and bumping into ,and pushing, each other while news reports reflect the passage of years. There is no cathartic relief in the play; apart from a sequence of Thomas finally standing up to William the tone remains bleak.

Into the Deep might have been stronger had the conflict between father and son been established at an earlier point but this is a powerful play very well performed.

Reviewer: David Cunningham


Comment by David Murray

Yes, I completely agree. The opening scenes are confusing and do not signpost the key themes closely enough. However the characterisations and much of the dialogue are excellent, and the play develops to a powerful conclusion. The father/son relationships are convincing and the way the play deals with the complexity of passing on faults from one generation to the next is fascinating.