Skip to content


Published on Thursday, 13 May 2010

It’s a difficult one, Keepers.  In this partly-historical tale of early-1800’s lighthouse men, I saw much I knew I ought to admire: strong performance, innovative atmospherics, and a subtly-developed twist in the tale.  Even now, part of my brain tells me that I must have loved it – but for a reason I can’t put my finger on, it never quite managed to draw me in.

Maybe it just did too good a job capturing the monotony of life on a rock in the sea.  There’s a lot of creativity in the physical comedy, which dips into the realms of mime and even conjuring to deliver some extra surprises.  In the early scenes, though, so much of it relies on going round and round the circle of the notional lighthouse; I understand the claustrophobia of course, but the two men’s boredom still began to rub off on me.

But that, I guess, is the lot of those for whom pleasure is a brightly-burning lamp.  They clean the windows, fish for crabs and quarrel over a dry cracker (pay careful attention to that scene).  Throughout, we see the older man, despite himself, warm to the younger – with the pride you might see from a father to his son.  Or is it something more?

That’s a question that’s answered in the end, and I’ll warn you: your first guess may be wrong.  Parts of the story are told in flashback, but with nothing obvious to indicate which parts, the narrative becomes pleasingly confused.  At the last, we realize that we’ve been on the wrong wavelength for most of the play – a discovery I found all the more satisfying because I was left to work it out for myself, rather than having it blurted out at me in some big and shocking reveal.

Fittingly, the lighting is memorable and magnificent, evoking a storm so successfully I was momentarily startled that the actors weren’t wet.  The on-stage sound department is a nice innovation too.  Sitting at a desk to one side, an industrious musician plays, scrapes, bangs and squeaks in perfect harmony with the events of the play; at first I feared a distraction but, actually, my enjoyment was enhanced by the fact I could see how it’s all done.

It’s a shame I didn’t get more out of Keepers, and the rapturous reception granted by the rest of the audience suggests the fault might in part be with me.  The narrative pace is slow, but the presentation packs a lot in; so if you’re a fan of this more physical style of storytelling, it’s worth setting your course for the Nightingale.

<< EXPRESSO by Theatre 21   Off The Cuff present: Cuf... >>


These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.