Archipelago: The Sherling Studio,Lighthouse,Poole. Friday 25th November 2016

It is wonderful to see that the never particularly pleasant studio theatre at Lighthouse has been transformed. Turned sideways and with seats on three sides of the performing area, it is suddenly an interesting space rather than just an ugly square box.

Renamed The Sherling Studio after its principal benefactors, Clive and Sally Sherling, it seems lighter, brighter and technically and spatially more friendly and versatile.

The studio was officially launched last night with a reception followed by the world premiere performance of American playwright Caridad Svich’s new play Archipelago.

Directed by Lighthouse artistic producer Stephen Wrentmore and performed with Svich herself and the Sherlings in front-row seats, it proved a revelatory piece of theatre.

A two hander featuring Lisa Caruccio Came and Nathan Ives-Moiba, Archipelago riffs on the theme of no man is an island. We seek out others but interconnection can be a painful process. It tells the story of an un-named couple repeatedly drawn together only to be torn apart as they meditate on the nature of difference and conflict, both domestic and political.

Why is he compelled to return to the war-torn homeland he once escaped? Why does she choose to seek answers among the snipers and the bombs? Why do memories fade and change? 

It’s a rhythmic and flowing work using choreography and projected film to help underline its beautifully crafted and ever questioning dialogue which seeks to  explore whether love can transcend and surpass the boundaries that divide this troubled pair. 

With powerful performances played against Yoon Bae's simple but effective set, lighting design by Ace McCarron and music from composer Karen Wimhurst, this is a production that subtly shows the strengths of the new Sherling Studio.

Archipelago is not an easy play. It demands close concentration. However it is a fitting debut for the new studio space which another of last night’s guests, National Theatre artistic director Rufus Norris, pointed out provides a much needed platform outside the metropolitan centres for new theatre.

Archipelago plays the Sherling Studio at Lighthouse until Saturday 3rd December.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022