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The 8th Wave, The Space

James Ernest
Directed by Don Mc Camphill and Luke Lutterer

Pros: A solid play in a great little venue. A particularly strong performance from Francis Adams.
Cons: The start was a little slow and the ending a bit contrived.
Our Verdict: The playwright James Ernest could be one to watch for the future. So why not go and see his early work?
Courtesy of  Disturbance
The Space is a little old Presbyterian church on the Isle of Dogs. Oh the irony of having both a theatre and a bar within its walls; those strict Presbyterians would have swum for it.
The opening situation of The 8th Wave is relatively intriguing. Mathew, a young lad, is tied to a chair whilst Brian, a middle-aged bloke, sits at a table eating and drinking. Brian starts to muse upon a range of topics. He does have a captive audience. Well written as these musings are, for example on the perils of smoking, they don’t seem to be going anywhere. Indeed it is a full 29 mins – I checked my watch – before we discover how Mathew had broken into his shop. Then the feathers do start to fly.
Brian becomes very angry with Mathew. In fact I don’t mind admitting that I got my bearings with respect to the fire exit. Brian has spent 19 years building up his business and he doesn’t take kindly to criminal activity. Both parenting and society are to blame for it. So the set-up is the self-righteous tax-payer against the disadvantaged youth. In his turn Mathew becomes disrespectful. He is quite penetrating in his insights into the shopkeeper’s sad and lonely life. This results in a Bobbitt-style threat, which had all the men in the audience crossing our legs.
On both sides there are reminiscences: Brian built a model boat aged 12 which his father ignored; Mathew was made to feel like a criminal on entering Brian’s shop as a boy; Brian was forced to have a tooth pulled out in his childhood. Little by little we start to understand why Brian’s behaviour is what some might term extreme. Likewise why he wishes – in a don’t mind me taking you hostage kind of a way – to become a parent to Mathew. As the shopkeeper, Francis Adams was outstanding. He explores many different aspects of his character. Alex Payne is faultless, too, though he is restricted by his circumstance.
The 8th Wave was developed at the Soho Theatre and was runner-up in the Soho Young Writers Award 2012. However for me James Ernest’s set-up isn’t original enough to make this a brilliant new piece of work. The final section involves a too sudden shift and the actual ending is rather contrived; without giving too much away Hollywood wouldn’t touch the ending with a bargepole. Ernest does have an excellent feel for character and dialogue though. And he possesses a sound understanding of how our pasts live on into our presents. The big model boat that the two actors built was genius. Cardboard or not I wanted to go and try to sail it down the Thames.
Regarding the former church that is The Space, I loved it. It’s one of those intimate venues where you feel that anything could happen. The co-directors Don Mc Camphill and Luke Lutterer used the small stage to its fullest. At one point Brian came so far down it that he almost sat in amongst us. For what appears to be quite a low-tech venue the lighting added another dimension. It was very effective in setting the mood. Plus there was a soundscape of the sea which was both soothing and portentous. One last charm of the evening was the audience member who believed she’d been taken to a comedy. None of the rest of us laughed once.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The 8th Wave runs at The Space until 13th April 2013.
Box Office: 020 7515 7799 or book online at

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