The Spring Tide @ The Old Red Lion, London – September 2013

lanThe Old Red Lion Theatre’s quest to showcase the work of innovative and exciting new writers continues with this world premiere of Carol Vine’s The Spring Tide.

The play is essentially a study of one woman’s fight with her true self, which results in her allowing convention and what she perceives to be a more socially acceptable way to live, to win. Coupled with the inevitable emotional havoc this wreaks, both on herself and the people in her life, this makes for an ambitious and poignant piece.

The tackling of gay issues in the theatre is by no means new, but I think it is fair to say that stories of women battling their sexuality, getting married and having children, then ‘coming out’ in later life, are more rarely seen. The young versions of Suzy (Lorena Vila) and Lan (Nellie NcQuinn) meet and fall in love whilst still at school and the scenes between them bring out the more innocent side of a same-sex relationship that is both readily embraced by its teenaged participants and which sizzles with possibility. Both young actresses give bold and promising performances and their interaction is tender and thoroughly believable throughout.

There are, however, a few elements which have the potential to jar and baffle the audience as the play jumps back and forth in time and the girls re-unite as adults. Now 45, Suzy (Melanie Ramsay) has turned her back on her relationship with Lan and married Matthew Ashforde’s hapless Tim.

The couple’s troubled teenaged son, Lewis, is the archetypal exponent of a dysfunctional marriage, and whilst Pierro Niel Mee’s performance occasionally verges on caricature, he brings an undeniable vitality and much-needed humour to the piece. The adult Lan’s Manchester accent is confusing (her younger counterpart has a strong Irish lilt) and the reasoning behind her return to Suzy’s life is never really explained, but Anita Parry’s confident performance is impressive throughout.

Whilst on some levels this production is very much a work in progress, its originality and moving subject matter show real potential for something special.

Photograph: Lorena Vila as Suzy, Nellie McQuinn as Lan, by Jack Weir.

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