Theatre Review: Selkie – The Blue Room Theatre, Perth (Performances until April 30th)

The April – July Season at Perth’s Blue Room Theatre kicked off last week with Renegade Productions’ Selkie the new work from writer Finn O’Branagáin, and directed by Joe Lui.

Selkie is a contemporary reimagining of the old myth; stripped of the romanticism and whimsy; an exploration of the darker themes at play. I was looking forward to this work (as much as one can look forward to a work that promises to be about cultural exploitation and domestic oppression) having been a fan of O’Branagáin’s work on last year’s The Epic. Yet once again expectations got the better of me and I left the theatre ultimately feeling underwhelmed.

That’s not to say Selkie is bad, it’s not, it’s ably acted and well written, I wasn’t moved by it like I was expecting to be. Certainly I appreciated the central performances of Ella Hetherington and Paul Grabovac as Rónnad the Selkie and Séan the human respectively.

Grabovac was at his affable best as Séan, hiding the characters more sinister machinations behind Michael Jackson impersonations and motions of a normal relationship. Hetherington perhaps stood out the most for me, imbuing Rónnad with the fieriness of a predator and also the vulnerability of one no longer a predator; of someone removed from the familiarity of home. Yet I never quite bought their relationship – but then perhaps that was the point?

Ultimately I think my main criticism with the piece was the sound; rather than emphasise and complement the action on stage; I felt it actually detracted from it, pulling me out of the action. If your music is so loud that one of your lead actors can’t be heard over it, it’s maybe too loud? Also the decision to play a romantic folk song at the work’s climax, whilst perhaps meant ironically, to me just killed any tension or impact of the final moments. The average audience member can probably work out when the play has come to an end, if they haven’t everyone else’s applause will probably give them the hint.

Cherish Marrington’s set design, if a touch Enchantment Under The Sea Dance, was mostly sparse and unobtrusive, with the raised dais and other accoutrements offered a nice little nod to the work’s folkloric roots and one potential contemporary interpretation. Her Selkie costume design in particular was visually striking, really providing dancer Yilin Kong with a degree of “otherness”.

Despite it’s positives Selkie just didn’t really move me; and ultimately I left feeling underwhelmed and a little annoyed. It’s well written, and the acting was certainly not terrible, but just little bits of the production let it down for me.

Selkie is on at Perth’s Blue Room Theatre until April 30th. Tickets and further information can be found HERE

The reviewer attended the opening night performance on April 14th.