The Sea finds it natural home by the ocean at Jericho Beach.
The Sea finds it natural home by the ocean at Jericho Beach.

Following A Doll’s House in 2015 and Flare Path in 2016, Vancouver’s Slamming Door Collective will once again take up residency at the Jericho Arts Centre for another period piece with a production of Edward Bond’s The Sea.

Not that doing period pieces was ever part of the original design when the Collective produced its first work.

“I don’t know if we planned it that way, but it definitely has kind of come about that way,” says Genevieve Fleming, who will play Mrs Rafi in The Sea.

Instead, Slamming Door was first formed to present classic contemporary work not seen in Vancouver.

“I think that the contemporary classics are exciting to a lot of us, particularly with the opportunity to do large cast productions,” says Fleming.

“Which provides both an opportunity for audiences to see this work and also for our actors and designers, both emerging and established, to have the chance to work on material that otherwise they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so,” adds The Sea director Tamara McCarthy.

Set in 1907 in a small English coastal village, The Sea is the story of a young man who drowns and the townsfolk attempt to determine what exactly happened and what it means for them.

It would be the play’s locale, coupled with their guest residency at Jericho that initially led McCarthy to The Sea. “When I was pitching it to Genevieve, we knew we were coming back to the Jericho Arts Centre right beside the ocean,” she says.

And while on its surface The Sea may sound like a drama, add in some aliens, a multitude of eccentric characters, biting satire, and it is anything but.

“It’s definitely an absurd, dark comedy,” says McCarthy. “There are moments of absolute desolate poetry, filled with moments of laughing so hard, you’re crying.”

“There’s definitely elements of pure farce in there as well, I think it mixes a lot of comic genres,” adds Fleming.

While written over forty years ago, debuting in Britain the same year the country joined the European Union, McCarthy very much sees a connection between then and now.

“There are many resonances to current political events such as Trump and Brexit,” she says. “There’s a lot of interesting parallels happening with things in the world today, and what is happening in this play.”

This fact should come as no surprise familiar with Bond’s politically-fueled works, including his controversial 1965 play Saved, a violent look at a generation of young people living on the dole in council estates. So polarizing was Saved in fact, it is reported that a fight broke out at the end of the original production at London’s Royal Court Theatre.

And even while the Slamming Door Collective is not expecting fisticuffs at the Jericho Arts Centre following The Sea, it is a play which still manages to boil with Bond’s particular view of the world.

“He comes from the lower class himself and has a lot of commentary to make on societal structures and class status,” says Fleming. “He’s a well-regarded playwright, but he never quite reached the level of household brand that he might have if he had kept some of his opinions out of his texts. But I think that that would defeat the purpose of him as a playwright as well.”

It might also be why McCarthy believes Bond gets a mixed response to his work.

“I think that if you are a person that has an opinion about his work, I encourage you to see the show and see if that opinion still holds in our current political climate,” she says. “And if you’re not familiar, I think it’s a great opportunity to see a showcase of artists in wonderful roles in a beautiful production but also to familiarize yourself with an important contemporary playwright.”

The Sea plays The Jericho Arts Centre (1675 Discovery St, Vancouver) May 2-19. Visit theatrewire.com for tickets and information.