Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 26 September 2014

The Shipwrecked House

Rich Mix ⋄ 21st September and touring

Fever dream.

Laura Seymour

The Shipwrecked House is a tale of houses spliced with the sinews and dreams of its inhabitants in a way reminiscent of (other) Angela Carter-inspired works like White is for Witching.

Claire Trévien delivers her one-woman show in a natural, talkative way; it never seems like she isn’t just pausing in her travels through the dusty gimcracks of the Shipwrecked House to tell us something that’s just popped into her head. There is no intoning here, no ‘poet voice’ (such as it is, rightly or wrongly recently being vociferously called out everywhere) but a delivery that opens up and chimes with a subject matter that is at once engagingly everyday and stomach-droppingly rock-bottom dark (my favourite line of the book on which the show is based, for example, speaks of the fates :, ‘Morta cuts the line’ – not the line of destiny, but a queue in a supermarket): ‘I want to keep| the yoghurts that went out of date yesterday’.

If Trévien was simply reading us her book aloud it’d be a good evening of itself, but it is so much more multimodal than that, and that is why it is so important to go and see.  Early on, for instance, she interacts with a crackly-voiced retro device, teetering, like the automated psychoanalyst Eliza, on the brink of importunate animate being. As she lays out LEDs reverently towards the end of the show, there’s a strong sense of internal symbolism, personal mythology: cowries, anchors, fried landscapes, junk that really isn’t junk, ‘my mother grew a cardboard box in her stomach’.

At first Trévien conveys an infectious surprise at her environment as, for example, her initial act of hanging her coat up makes a line-and-pulley hoist up a dustsheet uncovering new treasures.  But she is completely in control of, almost literally, every molecule in the atmosphere: Trévien co-organises the event ‘Penning Perfumes’ which matchmakes words with scents , and carefully-blended scents are released into the air throughout her show. There’s also the sort of
quintessential quality to it all that you get in dreams – her rubber mac is über yellow and rubbery, the bucket in the middle super-weathered.

There is a crepuscular quality to The Shipwrecked House that leaves it muggy with batter, especially when Trévien imagines the sea rising (‘the moon bathed in ketchup| Trees fried in sunflower oil’), and it comes to a head just as we tilt into the second half. Her poem ‘Sing Bird’, uncomfortably delirious enough (it begins ‘Vile birds fried to the wires’) is raised to high fever when it is shouted by a forbidding computerised male(-sounding) voice, loud and discordantly-organised as a halting train, in a howling storm and you realise (the contrast seems so deliberate) that the amiable narrator/protagonist, skipping around in a very fetching forgetmenot blue pinafore created this too, this all.

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Laura Seymour

Laura Seymour is writing a PhD thesis on cognitive theory and Shakespeare in performance. Her poems have appeared in several journals such as 'Iota', 'Envoi', 'Ambit', and 'Magma'. Her book 'The Shark Cage' won the 2013 Cinnamon Press debut collection prize and is forthcoming in 2015.

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