Brother and sister Zead and Immy are locked within a shipping container headed for England with two strangers; between them they have a knife, some water and a torch, but no spare batteries. Georgina Perry’s Steerage sees the beginning of their journey as an increasingly scared Immy seeks solace in her imagination.
The staging is effective and mirrors the claustrophobia of the container with boxes piled high, ripped cardboard on the floor; a small dark room and brief moments of the cast moving among the audience.
Zead (Assad Zaman Choudhhury)’s 17-year old bravado only loosely masks his fear; his sense of responsibility for his fragile little sister is threatened by the two grown-ups in the container with them. Zead is a boy trying really hard to be a man.
As Immy, Catherine Dowling gives a sensitive performance which, it just strikes me, never once made me question why an adult was playing a 9 year old girl. Without speaking, the audience is compelled to watch her as she is drawn deeper and deeper into her imaginary world of shadow puppetry, seeming to become part of the shadows every time they appear. The music accompanying these sections is beautiful, in fact the sound throughout is thoughtfully used.
Steerage is a beguiling play. However, I was left with a sense of unfinished business – I felt there was more of the story to be told, perhaps another 15-30 minutes would have done the idea a bit more justice. So I was really pleased to read in the programme notes that Second Nature Theatre Company are going to develop Steerage into a full-length touring production, which I will definitely be keeping an eye out for.
You can see Steerage at the Midland Hotel (Victoria Suite) as part of the 24:7 Theatre Festival on Sunday 24 July 7.30pm, Monday 25 July 12.30pm, Tuesday 26 July 9pm, Wednesday 27 July 7.30pm, Thursday 28 July 12.30pm, Friday 29 July 7.30pm.