I can’t say I know much about Selkie lore – but it's a topic I want to learn more about, and I wasn’t disappointed by A Great Fear of Shallow Living. By bringing modernity to Celtic tradition, In Tandem Theatre Company invites us to question fantasy and reality, through a captivating performance brought to life with splendid live music.
In Celtic myth, a Selkie is a seal-like being which lives in the water, but can shed its coat and step onto land as a beautiful human being. Una is a Selkie on land, who prefers not to return to the sea like her mother and grandmother dearly want her to. This performance tells of Una’s fight to stay on land, in the face of the inevitable urge that draws her back to the water.
The actors have a wonderful narrative voice, clear and articulate, holding the audience in their story. They summon characters with seeming ease, and the small cast bring a wonderful dynamic to the stage. They are definitely a talented trio of performers, creating a cosy space for the audience to listen. Even as we are welcomed into the auditorium, ambient music sets the scene and creates intimacy, as if we are being told a campfire story.
The live music, in fact, is an important element of the whole performance, building an effective and lingering melody that makes A Great Fear of Shallow Living a stand-out show. The sometimes-exaggerated and poetic language may not appeal to everyone, but it didn't obstruct my own engagement with this fascinating tale, and I found myself thoroughly engrossed throughout.
This is a fast-paced show, but certainly not rushed; I was absorbed in the narrative and barely realised when an hour had passed. With a wonderful cast and captivating words, A Great Fear of Shallow Living is a haunting but simultaneously beautiful piece of storytelling, and a well-told tribute to Selkie lore.