REVIEW: The Souvenir by Heaton Wilson


Quay Arts 15th September

Image may contain: ocean, water, sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the notes provided before the show – I only knew it involved live music, and Island shipwreck and ‘a marriage on the rocks a century later.’ Intriguing, I thought.


I didn’t expect to be treated to a selection of sea shanties to start with – not only were they expertly rendered, but the audience were invited to sing along and it did start to get us in a sea-faring mood.


Indeed, the show embraced a range of entertainments: as well as the  a cappella singing, there were sublime guitar and vocals – including a specially written song – to introduce and underpin some of the action; and narrative as well as character acting. Scenes shifted rapidly, but moving of people and sets were smooth and efficient, often accompanied by music.


The company of four men and four women together took on a variety of roles to tell the story of the wreck of ‘The Souvenir’ on Atherfield Point and the rescue mission which succeeded in saving all but two of the crew, one of whom, the captain, in a very poignant speech, makes the (brave? heroic? foolhardy?) decision to go down with his ship.


Alongside, cleverly juxtaposed, was the story of Alan and Helen, a couple struggling over their future together: as the background to their situation was gradually revealed, there was at first no apparent connection between the stories other than Alan’s interest in the shipwrecks of the Isle of Wight.


However, the two strands, separated by a century and one based on a real event, shared between them the thought-provoking message of the show, which I will not share here for fear of spoiling the experience for the potential audience if ‘The Souvenir’ is staged again – which it deserves to be.

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