Post-Brexit Britain, the worst case scenario. A cautionary tale of a dystopian future in which a family is forced to flee from their home in the scepter'd isle. A short story about the ugly reality of life as a refugee, about inhumanity — about fate, fortitude, and family.
The Mouth of a Shark is a one-woman play from writer Dan Pick, brought brilliantly to life by Larner Wallace-Taylor. An intense hour of minimalist storytelling. Wallace-Taylor takes the audience on a journey from a precisely ordinary English household to the dire straits of Gibraltar aboard a perilous refugee boat.
We are told how the children put on a brave face, how the fixers take advantage of the circumstances, how true refuge eludes the refugees. Wallace-Taylor tells the story from a woman's, a mother's, point of view and does so with moving emotion, subtlety, and excellent pace.
The Mouth of a Shark is a play for our times, and of our times. A hyperreal synthesis bringing together the situation on the Mediterranean, and the nationalist sentiment epitomised in the Brexit vote. The rampant fear of our times.
Wallace-Taylor gives it her all, delivers the powerful statement as written. She takes her time, and tells the story sincerely, works the stage. There's a great understanding of drama here, both in text and presentation, with piercing humour expertly thrown in to pepper the tragedy. A special mention for the outstanding lighting design.
In its timeliness, the play loses some of its perspective, and in its immediacy, some of its punch. The story maintains its energy and forward momentum, though some of the sudden transitions do betray the narrative. Still, cutting the play to size has probably only made the play that much sharper.
The play overstates a bit, and draws parallels that are a little too clean and convenient. The painted world is a little too much to swallow as a plausible scenario. Sure, bad things happen, when people forgo their humanity, but the warning here steps too far in the dark and the outrageous. One can see the ending a good distance away.
See The Mouth of a Shark for a timely reminder that a bright future is never certain, and that humanity is built on people caring about the fates of their fellow human beings.