What sort of person chooses to spend her life on a cruise ship, entertaining guests and having a home that’s permanently on the move? A person who has no real life on shore, perhaps, and who would rather be “Sailing Somewhere” to save her facing sad reality. By LESLEY STONES.
That’s the title of a new play by Matthew Hurt and starring Fiona Ramsay as a singer whose life is literally all at sea. Hurt says many people find the easiest way to react to a problem is to run away from it. What have they run from and why, and will they ever have the strength to turn around and face it?
These are the questions he explores in “Sailing Somewhere”, with Ramsay playing a singer who left her child, Zoe, with her husband, and later with her grandmother. “I think that everyone was happier without me there,” she says.
It’s an engaging piece of musical theatre, beautifully acted and sung to the accompaniment of Tony Bentel on piano. The songs by Conor Mitchell are all about love lost or unrequited, disappointment and desertion. Ramsay starts with a husky, smoke-tainted voice, making you wonder whether she’s faking it to imply the damage of a lifetime, or if she’s genuinely about to go down with flu. Of course we find she’s acting and, as the show progresses, her voice clarifies to give the songs a haunting, lingering poignancy.
The set by Andrew Botha is perfect, with a microphone and piano at one side of the stage, and a dressing room at the other. The dressing table is designed so that when Ramsay sits down, it looks like she’s telling her stories through a picture frame.
Tales of life on board revolve around who’s bonking who in random brief encounters, and the annoying efforts of a new crew member to adapt to life at sea. The stories are witty and earthy, with Ramsay breathing life into the characters of her fellow entertainers. Other tales gradually reveal her own less-than-laudable behaviour and belated regrets are expressed beautifully as she re-examines her past, tries to justify the unjustifiable and figure out her future.
Ramsay strikes the right note between despondency and practicality as she gets on with daily life and drinking to keep a smooth surface over the choppy waters of her abandoned life on shore.
Zoe, her now grown-up daughter, wants to meet her when the ship docks in Durban, but the singer isn’t sure she’s ready for a reunion. Yet as ship gets closer to land, self-examination brings her closer to facing herself too.
There’s a lot of humour in “Sailing Somewhere”, but it’s not a comedy. Rather it’s a melancholy, moving piece that’s worth seeing because of the quality of the script, the acting and the music. DM
“Sailing Somewhere” runs at The Old Mutual Theatre on the Square until 29 October.
Photos: Val Adamson
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