🎭 Morveren
📍 Barons Court Theatre
🎫 Gifted
⭐⭐⭐

Drawing upon Cornish mythology, ‘Morveren’ is a story that explores three generations of women and the importance of community.

Written by Kate Webster and directed by Lou Corben, Morveren includes a musical arrangement by Becki Jayne Reed and audio clips of the ocean breeze, setting the scene, and transporting the audience to Cornwall.

The story

The play begins with Keren (Charlotte Blandford), an ambitious banker, arriving at a coastal Cornish village for a work project, with her daughter, Ellie (Aysha Niwaz).

Keren is a workaholic, eager to please her boss and earn a promotion. Ellie is fascinated with mermaids and the sea, carrying around the Disney Princess Ariel backpack *and* an Ariel toy. Ellie’s curiosity, and desire to be a mermaid, lead her to take a swim in the sea, much to her mother’s obliviousness.

In another scene, Morwen (Alessandra Perotto) notices Ellie struggling in the water and sets out to rescue her. Here we learn that Morwen is Keren’s grandmother and has not seen Keren in years, nor has she met her great-granddaughter, Ellie. Morwen, the matriarch of the village, stresses the importance of protecting their home and passing down wisdom to Keren and Ellie. Keren displays snobbery about her hometown, wondering why the same people are still living and working in a village so rural, her GPS watch can’t track her.

My thoughts

The pacing did feel slow and it took a while for the story to unravel. Act 2 certainly had more dramatic elements and revealed details of an unfortunate accident, which caused Keren to leave the village.

I enjoyed the duologues between the characters; Ellie and Morwen’s conversation about mermaids was endearing. Although unclear how old Ellie was meant to be, Niwaz did a great job at portraying the innocence mixed with inquisitiveness you’d associate with a young child. I also liked the staging in this particular scene. The set design was simple, with a sole rock situated at the corner of the stage. A clever and subtle directional choice from Corben, having Ellie positioned in a way we’d imagine a mermaid to lay.

The actors all gave strong performances, especially during the tense scene with Keren and Morwen. Their role as grandmother and granddaughter was believable and their scenes felt natural.

While the strengths lay within the performances, the story felt disjointed. I would have loved more cohesion between the moments of drama.  In my opinion, certain scenes and even intervals of dialogue from Keren interrupted the flow. Other scenes felt like a filler and could have been minimised. I would have also liked more exploration into Cornish mythology.

Keren’s character journey was a standout – Blandford played the role exceptionally well and convincingly displayed a range of emotions. Keren went from being distant, even a bit rigid to showing a softer, vulnerable side.

With great characters, who shone in their individual roles, Morveren is a heart-warming family play, emphasising the value of having a community, forming family bonds and womanhood.

Morveren is playing at Barons Court Theatre until Saturday 28 January 2023. You can get tickets online.