Lorraine and Alan is a mesmerising modern re-telling of the ancient Selkie myth, in which a lonely Celtic fisherman steals and hides the skin of a selkie (sea-people who live as seals but can occasionally cast off their skins and assume human form), thereby entrapping her and keeping her as a wife until she rediscovers her hidden skin and returns to the sea.
The Bucket Club has had a lot of fun imagining how this story would translate into a modern context. Instead of a fisherman, we have Alan, a nerdy Marine Biology graduate living at home with his indulgent dad and his disapproving mother, who is aghast at the uncouth manners of her son’s new girlfriend.
The story is beautifully told, in every sense. Visually, the set is simple but stunning: a huge arc of multitudes of clear plastic bottles of water, transparent or tinted green or blue, side-lit, a constant reminder of the perpetual pull of the sea. Acoustically, using only their voices and some minimal technology, the musicians (Becky Ripley and David Ridley) create a constant soundscape which is utterly riveting. It encompasses the swell of the sea, the screech of the seagulls, and moves deftly from the banal telly in the Norfolk living room and the click of cutlery during an agonisingly embarrassing family meal, to beautiful harmonies as Lorraine and Alan fall into love, then hovering in and out of discord as their relationship does the same. Their music has an eerie, other-worldly quality, which lends the story a perfect timelessness, as befits a myth: at once mediaeval, with echoes of plainsong and chant, and futuristic.
Myths like this endure not just because they are good stories; they also make good metaphors. In this version of the tale, Lorraine and Alan are initially both fascinated by the otherness of earth and water. At first, excitement, novelty and love are enough to overcome the difference in their backgrounds; but as these fade, the force of their origins regains its former power. Lorraine is, literally, out of her element. Water is ever-present as an elemental force, in the story, in the imagery, in the soundscape, in the plastic water bottles, which are used as both scenery and props. Eventually, Lorraine must return to her true natural condition.
The performances by Adam Farrell (Alan) and Katie Sherrard (Lorraine) are superb. It is almost scary what a convincing seal Sherrard makes!
Lorraine and Alan is not a promising title. The names are so mundane and middle-aged (this is acknowledged in the script). It seems surprising, given that every other aspect of this production is so imaginative, that the Bucket Club should choose such an unexciting name for it. I wonder whether this accounted for the tiny audience at the Mill Arts Centre; if so, this is sad, as this production deserves a full house.