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Theatre review: Sealand at Arcola Tent

14:51 26 October 2012

Sealand at the Arcola

Sealand at the Arcola

Archant

Fantastic piece of new writing inspired by Sealand, a disused military platform proclaimed an independent state

Inspired by the principality of Sealand, a disused military platform off the coast of Suffolk which was proclaimed an independent state by its occupants in the 1960s, the events in this play pale in comparison to the true story.

The real Sealand, with its population of four, saw off an attempted invasion by the navy and was taken over by mercenaries only to be reconquered in a gun battle. Never has the phrase ‘you couldn’t write it’ been more apt.

So it is wise that writer Luke Coulson chose to focus on family issues and human dramas in his imagining of another Sealand. Ted and his son set up colony on the platform, looking to make a new life away from “broken Britain”, with her rioting, corrupt banks and imminent lack of NHS. They are joined by another family of troubled characters – alcoholic dad, stroppy teenage girl and embattled mother. But Ted’s utopian vision of a new society on the sea fort is tested by the unwelcome arrival of a prying lawyer.

Jess Stone is magnetic as the rebellious teen and Janet Etuk plays the mother with a tight-necked restraint that has the audience in peals of mirth.

However, the casting of young actors in middle-age roles is problematic. The acting is universally of a high standard but the odd age casting means that it comes across as a student production playing in a grownup theatre, which is a shame as it is a fantastic piece of new writing.

* Sealand was at Arcola Tent in Ashwin Street, E8, until November 10. Call 020 7503 1646.

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