Review: We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea, adapted by Nick Wood, Eastern Angles, Hush House, RAF Bentwaters until July 9

Matilda Howe, Rosalind Steele, Joel Sams and Christopher Buckley in We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea, by

Matilda Howe, Rosalind Steele, Joel Sams and Christopher Buckley in We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea, by Arthur Ransome, Eastern Angles summer production which is being staged at The Hush House - Credit: Archant

This classic nautical adventure, written by Arthur Ransome, set on the River Orwell and off the coast of Felixstowe, is pure summer fun.

Matilda Howe, Rosalind Steelee and Christopher Buckley in We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea, by Arthur Ran

Matilda Howe, Rosalind Steelee and Christopher Buckley in We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea, by Arthur Ransome, Eastern Angles summer production which is being staged at The Hush House - Credit: Archant

The young sailors – slightly older Swallows and Amazons – may be becalmed on the North Sea but this excellent adaptation is all thrills and drama from start to finish. It’s played as its written as a rip-roaring adventure, but director Ivan Cutting and writer Nick Wood, are astute enough to give the older kids a sense of the danger they are in which keeps the audience perched on the edge of our seat.

It’s also very funny. The characters play brilliantly off one another and the actors switch between their teenage selves and the occasional responsible adult with a quick change of hat and a subtle shift of bearing.

The four cast members, Rosalind Steele, Matilda Howe, Joel Sams and Christopher Buckley, make their roles - Susan, Titty, John and Roger – into a very believable family, complete with all the hierarchal squabbling that comes a tight knit of youngsters.

During the course of their voyage, you feel you get to know them. Susan is the replacement parent, almost weighed down with a growing sense of responsibility as they drift out of the Orwell estuary, Roger is looking to live up to his father, while Titty is the fanciful writer, romanticising their adventure in her diary while young Roger is the hard-done-by wit, puncturing the pomposity of his older siblings.


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This is a show with a real sense of time and place. If the journey to the venue, across the former airbase with its runways and Cold War aircraft, may seem a bit land-locked but once inside The Hush House, Rosie Alabaster’s stunning set puts you immediately on the River Orwell at Pin Mill.

Ivan Cutting has put Rosie’s famous exploded boat from the original 2008 production back in the theatrical water and it works even better this time around with the extra room afforded by the Hush House and by having the audience look down on the action.

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The boat and acting area is book-ended with a pair of sails at each end, representing other boats on the river and used to screen projections at key moments in the story.

We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea is a real summer adventure. It’s a tale of growing up, of marrying a youthful sense of immortality with a dawning realisation that actions have consequences and that to keep yourself safe, sometimes you have to take decisive action.

It’s told with great wit and charm and the pace whips along with the speed of a spring tide. My only niggle is that I could have done with less period cinema-style music underscoring the action.

Nevertheless, We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea is a perfect summer treat. Catch it before it sails away.

Andrew Clarke

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