Presence Theatre: The Deep

Jack Tarlton, Joint Artistic Director of Presence Theatre, tells us more about The Deep. See the a staged reading of it here on Thursday 29 June, 5pm.

Since its inception Presence Theatre has always had a deep interest in Nordic drama and we are are thrilled to be now bringing a play inspired by one of the most famous stories from Icelandic maritime history to Oxford. 

The only survivor when the boat that he was working on sank off the coast of Iceland, fisherman Guðlaugur Friðþórsson struck out to swim to shore. After 6 km and nearly six hours in the extreme cold he managed to make it to land, only to have to walk over 3 km on sharp volcanic scree before he finally found any habitation. 

Jón Atli Jónasson’s monologue takes this tale of extraordinary fortitude to create a beautifully humane story where the fisherman’s family, friends and crew members are brought vividly to life. Once he embarks on his perilous journey home we enter the heightened hallucinatory state of his mind as he battles with his desires and fears and pushes his body beyond endurance. With a gull flying overhead as his sole companion he fights off the pull of the deep by obsessing over classic rock albums and by tightening his grip on the lifeline of his one true love back home who may not even be aware that he exists.

Thrilling, playful, haunting and inspiring The Deep plunges the audience into every moment of his struggle, revealing the need for home, love and hope that we all share in order to survive.

Presence Theatre is particularly excited to be bringing The Deep to Offbeat as the festival’s work in progress strand encourages companies to try out bold new work. After a successful staged reading at the Embassy of Iceland in London this presentation will allow director Jack Tarlton and actor Samuel Edward-Cook to sound the piece for greater psychological nuance, a more dexterous physical life and a sharper precision to its narrative. The Old Fire Station Studio will become a laboratory for the unexpected, the audience collaborators in the exploration of what the piece can be. This will prove invaluable as the next step towards mounting a fully realised production in the near future.

Providing the second voice of the monologue is a specially commissioned sound-scape by award-winning sound designer David Gregory. David’s recent commissions include work for The North Wall in Oxford, HighTide Festival, the Young Vic and and many international tours for Propeller.

Samuel Edward-Cook returns to The Deep’s solo role after the “inventive and extremely funny” (The Telegraph) production of Jane Austen’s Persuasion at the Royal Exchange Manchester. Other stage work includes Antigone directed by Ivo van Hove at the Barbican and international tour, Pitcairn for Out of Joint at the Oxford Playhouse and UK tour and Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare’s Globe. On screen he is well known for his portrayal of Danny Whizz-Bang in Peaky Blinders, as well as recent appearances in Emmerdale, Innocent and Brief Encounters all for ITV.

Director Jack Tarlton continues his exploration of Nordic drama after his work with the International Ibsen Festival in Oslo and on Norway’s The Returnings and Sweden’s Emperor Fukushima for Presence Theatre. As an actor he has just completed the “astonishing” (Time Out) City of Glass for 59 Productions following lead roles at the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Young Vic and Hampstead Theatre as well as the Oxford Playhouse and The North Wall. Screen roles includes Charles Richards in The Imitation Game and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in The Genius of Mozart and Tom Hitchingson in Doctor Who for the BBC.

Together they will bring this unique story to life, transporting the Oxford audience to the storm laden ice cold waters of the Northern Atlantic and one’s man courageous battle to return home.