Ocean Madness begins as the cruise liner of that name sets sail in its thirteenth year under the command of Captain Karl and his wife Naomi Sharpman. Their seventeen year old son Ellis, accompanies them at sea. By the next port of call, life is never going to be the same.
Kicking off with an Anything Goes ambience of frivolity and good humour, Joan, a charismatic passenger with her sassy teenage daughter, are invited by Naomi to the captain’s table. The evening’s banter sets the scene for darker currents to come. We soon see the first glimpse of what is euphemistically called the Captain’s ‘unprofessional behaviour’. Young people make eyes at each other. Cheryl, an inspector from Global Incorporated, the cruise ship’s owner is not invited to the table. Instead she investigates in the background. But who complained, and what did they complain about? Naomi runs a tight ship and anxiety lurks.
The inventive staging and adroit lighting of Harvey Dovell and his team makes clever use of the modern space of Keble college’s O’Reilly theatre. Tiers on stage conjure the sense of a spacious cruise liner with sun decks and saloons. Beth Fitzpatrick (musical director) with her five-piece band overhead, are a visual delight. Ms Fitzparick, two keyboards, bass guitar trumpet and drums, dotted in single file along the top gallery, playfully evoke the Ocean Madness’ portholes, adding to the maritime and light-hearted spirit of the production.
In twenty or so songs and a performance time of almost three hours, the drunken secrets of our captain are unleashed. Friendships are kindled, romance blossoms and change unfolds in the turmoil that follows. Love is lost and found, truths are spoken, denial is unveiled and justice done. There are tributary dramas too. Isolation, the lure of luxury, precarity, forgiveness, hope. Perhaps too many.
Karl begs understanding ‘there is no book about raising your son on a ship’, and Naomi, shocked and betrayed, faces the end of the life she blindly clung to.
The script, by Lottie Lester and Jenna Spray, was further developed by the cast in rehearsal - resulting in a comic sensability that raised appreciative bursts of laughter from the youthful audience. The vibrant energy and charm of this show, by 00 Productions (founded in 2019), make it an uplifting celebration of friendship, hope and change.