Morveren initially drew me in (as someone who grew up right on the border of Cornwall and Devon) with promises of magic and Cornish mythology. Performed in the charming expanse of The Space, this play depicts the complexities of familial female relationships, spanning three generations from that location.
An opening parade of intricately masked animals adds an instantly eerie yet whimsical feeling before the story even begins. It also sets the audience on edge as the masked creatures come up close to the front row; this paired with unsettling heavy breathing and unnaturally fluid movement. Had this sequence been incorporated throughout the performance, it would’ve allowed for a stronger sense of mythology and magic. However, it was only really used as a tool to start both acts and seemingly did little to support the plot.
The acting is incredibly strong throughout the show and characterisation, in particular, is made clear from the get go. A special shoutout has to go to the role of Keren, portrayed beautifully by Charlotte Blandford. Keren acts as a focus point throughout, with the two other characters centred on her. We follow her struggles (as both a mother and daughter) and, by the end, empathise with her choices as her family duties directly conflict with her career.
Blandford demonstrates a masterclass of emotion and perfectly portrays the internal struggle of attempting to maintain a brave face. At many points throughout the performance the audience are left with just Blandford on stage and yet she skilfully leaves you hanging onto every word.
Sound design could be described as a mixed bag. At times it really enhances moments of storytelling, particularly during lengthy monologues, where it assists in setting the tone and pace of the scene. However, other moments feel mismatched as certain sounds/songs play for too long or for too little time and don’t develop alongside the scene. This is a shame because Becki Reed‘s original soundtrack does match Morveren’s tone well, it just needs to travel alongside the plot more precisely.
The story itself is well-written and feels very much like a love letter to Cornwall. There is constant, clearly well-researched reference to various legends of Cornwall and the sea. However, issues arise where certain storytelling choices have been made. For example, an important part of the plot is given to the young daughter, Ellie (Aysha Niwaz), to tell to the audience in a childlike fashion. This is ultimately hard to follow and it becomes easy to miss important parts in favour of focusing on the humour of Niwaz’s delivery.
Overall, Morveren is a solid piece. There are glimpses of imagination, magic, and vivid creativity and it would be great to see this work further developed to allow these aspects to really shine at the forefront.
Written by: Kate Webster
Directed by: Lou Corben
Produced by: Bethany Sharp & Lou Corben
Musical Direction by: Becki Reed
Morveren has completed its current run at The Space. It is available to watch on-demand until 15 April, further information here.