Along with its reputation for revivals, Neil McPherson’s west London venue has a knack for delivering great writing, often from abroad. Any play put on here is a safe bet and this UK première from Canadian writer David French is a great start to 2023.
A sophisticated script underlies the simple romance in Salt-Water Moon. Returning to his home in Newfoundland after a year away, the prodigal Jacob aims to win back his sweetheart, Mary, only a month before her wedding.
The characters drive the drama. Is Mary really as cold and angry as she seems? Bryony Miller’s excellent performance in the role shows the character’s “steel and fire”. And is Jacob genuine or just a “schemer”? Joseph Potter brings charm to the role but preserves a suspicion about the “brazen” Jacob that slowly melts away.
As the couple awaits the return of Mary’s fiancé (a vivid character, despite never setting foot on stage), French gives us far more than the suggested scenario of “a wolf and a lamb”, making this a romance we want to be rekindled. As the odds against the couple mount, so does the audience’s emotional involvement.
Motives for both characters are carefully revealed as they journey towards the truth so that the play has suspense despite a lack of action. Peter Kavanagh’s impeccable direction is suitably restrained and the minimal yet stylish set by Mim Houghton is similarly appropriate.
It is the confidence in French’s writing that stands out. Many a historical drama could benefit from such a sure hand – one that doesn’t feel the need for extraneous detail. Likewise, the sense of a real community – still dealing with the aftermath of World War I and full of inequality – shows us the lived experience of its characters with no sniff of a history lesson. This is impressive writing: Salt-Water Moon is a quality show through and through with a strong script skilfully produced.
Until 28 January 2023
Photo by Lucy Hayes