Review: We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea

We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea. Photo: Mike Kwasniak
We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea. Photo: Mike Kwasniak
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Before I travelled to Ferry Meadows to see We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea I had watched David Cameron, his wife and three children go back through the front door of Downing Street, perhaps even disappearing through the door of a secret wardrobe into obscurity.

Perhaps they, like me, were going to spend the evening away from the ‘real world’ and in a place more simple and straightforward. Cameron is much like the four children who accidentally find themselves at the mercy of the elements and lost off the coast of East Anglia, all a bit directionless. Perhaps, like us, he has entered the world of pre- Second World War sou’westers, compasses and north by northwest. We could even “have a mutiny!”

We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea is Nick Wood’s adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s 1937 book and is the seventh book in the Swallows and Amazons series. Director, Ivan Cutting, gives the show a trademark high-quality Eastern Angles ensemble feel and has a steady hand on the tiller as he guides us through potentially choppy waters (groan!!!). The audience is in a world of Fair Isle sleeveless pullovers, canvas suitcases, enamel mugs and tins of condensed milk. It’s fabulous that Ferry Meadows is being used as a venue. The pop-up theatre-in-a-tent works a treat and the circular setting means that we can see, hear and almost feel the dire peril and derring-do.

The four actors, Christopher Buckley, Matilda Howe, Rosalind Steele and Joel Sams might be young, and in most cases inexperienced, but their enthusiasm and zest carries the whole thing along with a 1930s optimistic swing. Joel has a perfect Home Counties middle-class juvenile Ken Clarke accent – he’s the big brother. Don’t worry chaps – he’s in charge. “Better drowned than duffers!”

The story might be slight but that’s not the point. It’s all about childhood, siblings, long summers, adventure and that classic British ‘it-will-be-all-right-in-the-end’ stiff upper lippery. “As long as the boat’s safe, we’ll be safe!” It’s a tale of carefree potential young Conservatives all at sea but, instead of steadfastly avoiding Europe, they inadvertently sail into it – Holland to be precise.

The play will delight all ages – it’s accessible, warm-hearted and above all fun! I leave well satisfied – until I find out that, during my absence from the real world, we have a new prime minister and Boris Johnson has been made foreign secretary. Crikey – rocks ahead!

Review: TOBY WOOD