Messing about on the river

We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea, adapted by Nick Wood, Eastern Angles, at the Marquee Theatre, Orwell Quay, Ipswich Waterfront until July 6 and on tour until August 2As refreshing as a glass of homemade lemonade on a sultry summer's evening, We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea is a delightful adaptation of Arthur Ransome's Suffolk-inspired children's sailing adventure.

Lynne Mortimer

We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea, adapted by Nick Wood, Eastern Angles, on tour until August 2

As refreshing as a glass of homemade lemonade on a sultry summer's evening, We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea is a delightful adaptation of Arthur Ransome's Suffolk-inspired children's sailing adventure.

Nick Wood's words and Ivan Cutting's direction combine to make this a faithful and absorbing telling of this Thirties tale.

Pleasingly, it is true to its gentler time and the old-fashioned mores are delivered in all innocence and without irony - making them all the funnier.

Performed in a riverside marquee on the Ipswich waterfront, this was an enchanting evening in the company of four well-adjusted British children being brought up to be model middle class citizens by their mother and father.

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Father is away but expected home and mother brings John, Susan, Titty and Roger (yes, I know it is possible to make up your own jokes) to stay at Pin Mill where they can spend the summer messing about in boats which is absolutely their favourite thing.

Given the chance to sail out with Jim aboard Goblin the foursome are awestruck but excited. But then disaster strikes when the sailing boat is becalmed and Jim goes ashore to fetch petrol. Fog descends over the Harwich estuary and, as the tide turns, the boat begins to drift out.

The compact but brilliantly-devised set is Goblin; its rudder and mast vital to the action and the action is non-stop. Even when they're standing still, they're swaying with the swell of the water. In fact, it took the audience a little while to find its sea legs.

The casting is perfect. There is Titty (Sarah Hunt), the scribe, brimming with imagination and enthusiasm with unfortunate pigtails; John (Duncan Barrett), uncertain at times but masterful in adversity; Susan (Laura Stevely), the fretting little mother and Roger (David Ashwood) up for adventure with little concept of danger.

This is the 1930s, of course, and so the girls don't come off quite as well as the boys when it comes to physical tasks. We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea might have been subtitled And We Didn't Mean to Take the Girls but although they give a whole new meaning to the term “heave to” they turn out to be made of jolly stern stuff in the end.

The production is so in tune with the original book that you feel as if you've read it. The atmospheric music is also in period - evoking a sort of Vaughan Williams sea - and the lighting is superb.

Funny, exhilarating and wonderful to watch, I Didn't Mean to Go to Sea is the must-see show of the summer.

Lynne Mortimer

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