Review of ‘Salt Water Moon’: “To every shattered love wish”

Chelsea’s Finborough Theatre opens its 2023 season with the UK premiere of David French’s critically acclaimed play. Guillermo Nazara reviews this piece about a formerly engaged couple reuniting after their abrupt estrangement, to let us know if this classic work is worth to fall in love with.

Love feeds the heart and poisons the soul. It invade us with thrusts of happiness and forsakes us with strikes of grief. Love makes us stronger, driving our lives when there’s a purpose. And breaks our hopes into a million pieces when it turns into a memory that no longer can be. Love – such a simple term to describe that experience beyond words, able to build us, define us and at the same time destroy us whenever it pleases in the most selfish of ways. Because believe it or not, that’s what love stories are really all about.

First performed in 1984, none of its hundred of productions had however landed on the London stage until now. Penned by lauded Canadian author David French, Salt Water Moon is a gentle, naive exploration of the the uncertain feelings still palpitating under the thin skin of a sore ended relationship. Set in a remote fishing village in Newfoundland (don’t get your hopes up, we’re not singing Welcome to the Rock), the play starts with the unexpected return of Jacob and his encounter with Mary – once engaged to him, but now finding relief into the arms of his soon-to-be wealthy husband, Jerome.

Structured as a philosophical dialogue dealing with the insecurities of two broken hearts that still beat for each other, the piece succeeds at bringing out one of the most essential traits of human relationships: the fear of being hurt again. An obstacle to a possible beautiful story that’s taking over our interactions now more than ever, the text excels in its astoundingly good use of poetic prose – providing the dialogues with sublimed elegance without falling for a pompous aesthetic or being too verbose in style. The same, however, cannot be said about the pace – as despite its overall interest, on several occasions the plot’s rhythm feels stuck, with moments of reflection that aren’t really very necessary to the general telling of the story or its characters development.

As for its cast, Joseph Potter is by far the show stealer of the stage couple, once again giving his natural stamina and passionate intensity to the role to make it jump off its lines to a memorable and visual performance. On her side, Bryony Miller in the role of Mary, gives a more constrained rendition that, nonetheless, works to some extent as the show progresses – though her connection to the character is not entirely set up by the beginning of her acting.

With simple but charming and cleverly executed scenery (credit to Mim Houghton) and an effective lighting design by Neil Brinkworth, Salt Water Moon makes an accomplished effort at bringing some new flavour to the classic themes of the sore loss and the need to move along (either to the same or a different direction) when it comes to our feelings of affection and, many times, yearning for that special one. Though not perfect, it does achieve some level of originality and, most importantly, exudes care and craftsmanship in its delivery – resulting not in the ultimate must-watch, but perhaps something you should not pass by.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Salt Water Moon plays at London’s Finsborough Theatre until 28 January. Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Nazara

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