MUCH of what passes in “Our Lady By The Beach Over The Sea,” is not action but self-exploration. Visually and musically sophisticated, this is a poetic play, but Woodward doesn’t quite know how to end it. J ends up in the Star of the Sea, but why does Em end up in Belize? Well, that’s yet another question.There’s a beach, There’s the sea, a house by the sea. There’s a woman who sits watching the sea. And there’s the man she hasn’t seen for 50 years.
From out of nowhere we see the vision of a girl in a blue dress.
Is she the older woman in the man’s memory? Or is she a celestial vision, a young goddess? And who are the two intruders, sometimes languorous and lustful sometimes malicious and manipulative? Are they woodland nymphs, or perhaps the young lovers walking off Keats’s Grecian urn, or the palely loitering knight and lady from “La Belle Dame Sand Merci?” Certainly there’s plenty of Keats in the play and a good dose of W.B. Yeats too.
That’s quite a list of questions for one play and writer Joe Woodward declines to answer many of them in his evocative, yet puzzling “psychosexual odyssey.”
Striding the stage as J, the ageing artist, is Oliver Baudert, Lear-like in his near nakedness, sometimes frail and at other times powerful and passionate. Later from his lodgings in a “Star of the Sea” boarding house, there is a suggestion that all the characters may have been figments of his florid imagination.
But no. The woman, Em, has a daughter, who comes to ask the artist questions, and maybe to kill him.
There’s a lot of humour in this play, some of it deriving from the insinuating, malicious antics of Lucy Matthews and Andrew Eddey as the two “intruders,” but more of it resulting from the contrast between the down-to-earth Em, played with deliberation by Trish Kelly, who frequently undercuts J’s dreams of love.The shining Star of the Sea in this production is Kat Bramston as the girl, serene and enigmatic against the sea, reflected in three upstage mirrors. One suspects that in this performance, a star is born.