Billy Budd Sailor at The Square Chapel Centre for the Arts

The Square Chapel, Halifax
The Square Chapel, Halifax

Theatre North’s latest offering played to a disappointingly small audience on Saturday night.

This one act play adapted from the controversial Herman Melville’s nautical novel of the same name didn’t exactly cast off from port in a blaze of glory.

It was simply staged but at times felt awkward and difficult to watch.

The only actor Martin Lewton seemed nervous and didn’t successfully engage the audience from the offset leaving the on lookers disconnected from the dialogue.

The quirky concise set consisted of a bathtub and other assorted bathroom accessories which fitted tightly within the restricted playing space.

This seems clever at first and even original, but quickly became irritating and even upstaging as we inelegantly watched the poor actor shunt, noisily rotate and shift his way around the difficult cumbersome performance space.

Scenes of dialogue are separated with movement, disconnecting from the plot as Martin slowly bathed and clumsily attempted to indulge in acts of heightened sexual pleasure. Again difficult and clumsy to see, and completely detachedfrom the story.

I left the theatre confused and it took a while to digest what this performance offered.

After reading the programme I realised that this conceived as a site specific performance and was actually performed originally in a real bathroom.

My conclusion is that it doesn’t belong in a theatre; it just doesn’t offer enough theatricality. Billy Budd seemed a little lost at sea.