Rubber Dinghy

Tue 21st – Mon 27th August 2012


Rachel Cunliffe

at 00:34 on 22nd Aug 2012



I had no idea what to anticipate from ‘Rubber Dinghy’, and, having now seen the show, I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it. Entering the venue to find two men seated in a shabby rubber dinghy raises expectations of a comic two-hander or a series of sketches, but this short, intense play is closer to a tragic drama. Seth and David, having been shipwrecked in some indeterminate way float in the middle of the ocean, going slowly mad and reflecting on the pasts they have left behind. The audience is required to fill in most of the gaps, but it becomes apparent that the situation is the result of some ill-conceived escape plan, engineered by Seth. Somehow, it has all gone horribly wrong.

What follows is a beautiful exploration into the development of madness. Both Edwin Price (David) and David Shields (Seth) are phenomenal actors, never once straying into melodrama as they portray men falling apart in this bizarre situation. Price, as the madder of the two, has the more interesting character, and his command of both vocal and facial expression makes David’s mental breakdown entirely believable. Shields is more subtle, but equally compelling to watch. The final character is a figment of the men’s imaginations, an ethereal lady in blue who sings like a siren, luring them away from their dinghy. Eleanor Budge has a gorgeous voice, and there is a haunting, sinister quality to her otherwise silent performance, which adds to the sense of imminent psychosis.

The venue is perfect for this type of show: a small studio space with the actors just inches from the front row. This intimate atmosphere means the audience is able to see every flicker that crosses the actors’ faces, and their consistency is to be admired. Music, both live (Nathan Klein on keyboard) and recorded, adds depth to the production, and lights are used for an effect that is stylised, but somehow still very real. The whole show is extremely tight, condensed into a 30-minute slot. A little more time to explore the backstory might have improved it, and the ending is sharply abrupt, but these are small criticisms.

At one point, David repeats ‘this gives me depth as a character’, and this a good summary of the show as a whole. Put simply, ‘Rubber Dinghy’ has depth. I would strongly recommend it.


Laura Peatman

at 01:56 on 22nd Aug 2012



If you’ve been out on the Royal Mile over the last day or two, you may have noticed a rubber dinghy lying in the middle of the street. Not, it turns out, part of an evacuation plan in case this rain never stops, but the main feature of this new writing from Oxford graduate Kelvin Fawdrey. This work has impressive credentials, including Best Production at the 2012 Oxford University New Writing Festival. I’m still not sure it currently deserves quite such a crowning accolade, but despite my reservations I can’t deny that I enjoyed this snapshot of theatre, showcasing as it does some highly talented performers – beginning with the skills of musical director Nathan Klein, whose use of percussion in evoking the seascape is effective, even if the piano notes-cum-raindrops later on are a little too ‘Bambi’-like to be taken seriously.

Portraying two men stranded in the middle of the ocean in the titular rubber dinghy, Ed Price (David) and David Shields (Seth) are confident and assured throughout, whether tackling the comic or the more tragic elements of the script. For much of the show Price threatens to outshine his co-star, giving the most believable and emotive performance and committing fully to every facial expression and vocalisation of his inner torment. Yet this is largely down to the script, which gives him many more depths to plumb than the role of Seth, who is by comparison a little shallow. Shields deals well with the quieter moments of the play, but his characterisation is a little too thin to imbue his manipulative rage with any true menace. The poignancy of Price’s memories of his daughter treads the right side of the line between poignant and cloying; his tendency to gaze out of the scene, and thus directly into the audience, creates a connection in the small venue which draws us into this rather surreal episode. Eleanor Budge’s role as the respective daughter and former lover of the two men is effectively set against their desperation in her dreamlike sequences. Her singing has a lovely, clear tone which enhances the quiet stillness of these moments, in contrast to the frantic energy or complete despair which reigns over most of this work.

At just thirty minutes, this really is a snapshot of something that could be worked into something more. Much of the early dialogue is wasted on rather clichéd and glaringly oblique references to “our true story”, “who you really are” and the possibility that “we’ll go to prison”. These are, of course, meant to pique our curiosity and make us want to learn more about how they ended up in this unfortunate mess: yet I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I’d heard it all before, and in fact the reminiscences about those they left behind became much more fascinating than the series of events that led them there. The ending, too, is rather disappointingly rushed: a more lingering approach to the final moments would serve the play well, as its brevity means that the conclusion feels all the more abrupt. Yet there are some fine performances on display here and at times the script does shine: with some fleshing out, this could be developed into a truly impressive work.


Audience Avg.

0 votes, 0 comments

Click here for more event information

cast involved

other events on

Version 0.3.7a