Time And Tide

Maskers Theatre Company  Maskers Studio, Southampton Anne Waggott 13 September  2023

Southampton has had a centuries-long association with the sea and ships, from the Mayflower via RMS Titanic to the Tall Ships Youth Trust and modern cruise ships, and much more besides. So, when the Lord Mayor’s office approached Maskers Theatre Company to put on a show highlighting Southampton’s maritime history, they dove right in and produced a show to create quite the splash!

Masker’s Time And Tide is a collection of sketches, monologues, poems and a cappella sea shanties, reflecting the history of Southampton and its links with the sea – and is an evening that’s a lot of fun!

It’s not easy to pull together a cohesive show like this, but Director Sheana Carrington has overseen a production which flows like gentle running water over the sands of time. Reading from scripts in a dynamic and interesting way is also an underrated skill, but each of the six performers achieved this with aplomb as they shared Southampton’s nautical past and present, ensuring genuine fascination with their seafaring facts and chronicles, in a manner somewhere between Horrible Histories and audio dramas; but their acting skills really come to the fore when they immerse themselves in their characters during the memorised seections and monologues.

However, amongst the historical sketches, there are sombre events as well as humorous tales, none more so than the well-known tragic accounts of the sinking of the Titanic, and the much less-known horrors surrounding the death of poor young Richard Parker, a cabin boy who was eaten by his ship mates during tragic circumstances. In stark contrast to the more comical excerpts, these were treated with the utmost respect by the actors, bringing poignancy, empathy and authenticity to their performances.

In such a collaborative group production as Time And Tide, it seems churlish to pick out individuals for particular praise, especially when each member of the cast had their moments where they absolutely shone amongst many entertaining moments, including Duncan Randall’s King Canute, Marie McDade and Dawn Gatrell’s multifaceted characters, and Brian Stansbridge and Maria Head plaintively searching for their ship!

However, special mention must be made for Neil Maddock, who effortlessly switched between his inspirational speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V, to ‘typically British’ middle/upper-class RP speech from early-mid 20th century, and from murderous intent as Parker’s captain Tom Dudley to his natural flair and aptitude for comedy as he urged the audience to sing ‘Good-Bye-ee’ – which they all did with gusto! This seems the perfect production to showcase Maddock’s versatility and performance skills.

Musical interludes were provided by guests Southampton Salty Sea Dogs – “Southampton’s finest shanty crew!” – who grew in confidence and repartee, with their unaccompanied sea shanties evocative of pirates singing together with their own harmonies over a bottle or two of rum at the end of a long day of piracy, endearing them to the audience and generating more community singing!

Production elements were deceptively simple, but the shades of blue, green and aqua through outfits, lighting and props, alongside appropriately chosen projected images, well designed sound effects and Rosa Longman’s scene-setting pre-show piano playing, all combined to create a very aesthetically pleasing production reinforced by vibrant and excellent performances.

Catch Time And Tide at Maskers Studio, with the show running until Saturday 16 September (8:00pm on Friday night, remaining performances at 7:30pm), for an evening of fun facts, sea shanties and quality entertainment!