Bear Trap Theatre @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio
2:00pm, Wed 16 Feb 2011
It’s my first visit to Holden Street for the year (a slightly more awkward trek since changing abodes), and I was surprised to walk into the bar area and find it humming with activity. Without my glasses, I couldn’t see the faces; I asked what was going on at the bar. “It’s media day,” said the girl who, in my ocular haze, looked like The Girl With The Gorgeous Eyes.
Oh goody. So I go and sit outside in the quiet, indulging in a little meditative mull in the smoker’s corner; Martha walks past a couple of minutes later, we have a brief chat, and she gives me one of the media briefing booklets – which was really nice, and very much appreciated. Then I fall into conversation with Martin (who directed last year’s Final Round), which was lovely… though we chat too long, and wind up at the end of the line of a pretty decent crowd (with the presence of sight-line ruining TV cameras making The Studio feel all the more cramped).
The lights drop, and a wonderful, harmonious hum fills the air as the cast take to the stage, the hum overlaid by a traditional sea-faring song, the voices strong yet mournful. It’s a physically inauspicious beginning, though; a man stands at the edge of the stage, looking into the crowd, waiting for his contact, Woods. He’s a Polish man in England, contracted by an employment agency, ordered to work on the fishing trawler The Violet. As the other crew members arrive, expecting payment from their recent voyage, there’s obvious conflict between the Englishmen (and the Welshman, Reece) and the union-undercutting agency worker.
The crew are dismayed when their captain, Woods, arrives and breaks the bad news; the biggest corporate buyer of fish in the market had been put into administration, so the bottom had fallen out of the market prices: their expected pay would be a pittance. He hatches a plan to be the first boat back in shore with a load of fresh fish when the markets re-opens, to make a big score when return is high; reluctantly, the crew returns to sea.
As the fish fail to materialise, the boat’s nets snag, and they discover that they’re not the only trawler at sea, the crew’s tempers fray; the Polish worker, the odd-man-out, is accused of spying by Woods. The young hot-headed crewman sows seeds of discontent about the eldest, deriding his efforts and unsettling the rest. Woods, clearly in financial trouble, chases the big catch by taking the boat into a storm; they get the fish, the crew celebrate, but then the distress signal is heard from another boat in the storm…
If there’s one criticism – and there is only one – that can be levelled at Bound, it’s that the latter half of the script becomes a bit predictable, a little bit Perfect Storm-ish. But that, by no means, should diminish the quality of the work on display here; the Bear Trap ensemble are stellar throughout, with gutsy acting backed up by wonderful singing. The direction is faultless – a table and five chairs and some wet-weather sailing gear are all that’s required to leave you in no doubt that this is a fishing trawler in heavy seas (the rocking of the men back and forth is simple and effective); the height of the storm is a cacophony of noise and fumbled light, of panic and terror before an instant of calm.
An instant of calm before the thunderous applause and whooping of the audience… and these actors deserved every bit of it. Bound deserves to be a massive hit.