It is many years since I last watched an Eastern Angles play, and Oysters was very different to my first experience.
Some elements of this talented group have not changed over the years, notably the clever way they weave a story around local history.
This always makes it appealing to East Anglian audiences, as it enables them to connect the on-stage experience with the area in which they live.
However, judging by several comments overheard during the interval, some of the Quay audience found it hard-going to really engage with the material presented.
You had to concentrate to get the most out of the dialogue and story line – this was not a theatre spectacle or easy entertainment, but then it was probably never intended to be.
Despite that, I would have liked to have seen a little more sparkle about the production – a static set with no changes, and just four actors, some taking double parts, made it hard to maintain interest at times.
But the story of the oyster fishing and boat-building industries in East Anglia was a compelling one, and well-told by the talented cast of Terence Frisch (Mo), Kiki Kendrick (Pamela/Pearl), Jeannie Dickinson (Angie/Andrea/nurse/Pc Adair) and Hephzibah Roe (Kasey).
For me, the best character was Pearl, who lifts the mood with her funny asides and relishes explaining about the surprising sex life of the oyster – or ‘little devils’ as she calls them.
Writer and director Ivan Cutting acknowledges the challenge of writing this play: “The criteria was quite demanding, since besides the local industry and its importance, there was a whole cultural aspect to oysters.”
It is a challenge which is, on the whole, handled well – cleverly incorporating archive material with contemporary aspects.