New York accents, strong acting, and bleak yet mildly optimistic – a character study of the miserable poor. Or something along those lines at any rate – Danny and the Deep Blue Sea manages to take the audience on a journey of emotions.
The play is written by John Patrick Shanley. The writing is well done, which is no surprise given Shanley is a Pulitzer prize-winning writer. There were elements that could easily have become overwrought and melodramatic, but they were handled well, and were quite believable. With quite a minimal change in scenery, everything is driven by the dialogue, and that is handled well.
The characters are what the show is about, and boy does it deliver. I’m sure we all have had those people we have met – broken and troubled, weighed down by atrocious things they have done and had done to them. Seeking to find some way of coping but unable to intellectually or emotionally cope. And they meet in a sleazy, empty bar, far away from everything and everyone, and try overcome it all together. Powerful stuff, albeit a little bleak.
The performers, Charlie Cousins and Laura Maitland, were excellent. If those were not real American accents, they were done very well – with both performers really nailing the down-and-out New Yorker accent. They also managed to get the “vacancy” one sees in people who have had a rough life – a certain “emptiness” in their performance seemed very deliberate and managed to get the real essence of “broken with insufficient intelligence to handle it”. They nailed all the actions as well – Maitland and Cousins were really good at their craft.
The production was interesting. The show was divided into two halves, and during the 3 minute intermission, the audience had to move around in their seats to examine the stage – in essence, they were the divide between the two sets. Handled poorly, this could cause confusion and chaos – and it nearly did. Fortunately, due to the smaller size of the audience, it was averted. The lighting and props were very well done – really managing to suspend the disbelief and actually transport the audience into sleazy downtown New York. Plus it was fun as an audience member actually moving around as part of the performance.
The only real compliant about the show was that it was just a bit too long. Perhaps there could have been a slightly truncated speech here and there – although that could have run the risk of failing to develop the characters effectively. There was also a lot of background noise from outside – it was never clear whether this was part of the show, or an unrelated project happening at Siteworks. Siteworks was a disused building, which has been brought back to life as a community hub and art venue.
Overall, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is a strong character study performance which was well produced and well thought out. It successfully takes the audience member on an emotional journey and both the characters are enjoyable to witness – being human and very flawed, but also sympathetic at times.