Review: Corrina, Corrina at Liverpool Everyman ****1/2
Power, patriarchy, privilege and the politics of capitalism combine in Chloe Moss’s compelling and claustrophobic new play on deck at the Everyman.
Corrina, Corrina (its title a nod to the 1960 Ray Peterson song, not the Whoopi Goldberg film) is an exploration of what happens when these things are abused and exploited, either deliberately or through careless disregard.
Corrina (Laura Elsworthy) is that rare thing – a woman in a male-dominated industry, plying the world’s busy shipping lanes on a giant container ship. She’s spiky, guarded, eagerly efficient and painfully aware of the challenges she faces because of her sex.
Moss lulls you into a certain sense of camaraderie and comfort as Corrina starts to find her feet on board her new posting, venturing some wary banter with the mostly Filipino deck crew (James Bradwell, Angelo Paragoso and Martin Sarreal) and seeking to make a good impression on the captain.
But an unwelcome face from her past, played by Mike Noble, becomes an unnerving part of the present with echoing consequences.
His ambitious first officer Will is blokey and cocksure in a bland, everyman way – but that’s a compliment, not a criticism.
As what turns out to be the putative baddie of the piece, he could easily have been made out to be an evil monster. But through Moss’s writing and Noble’s canny interpretation (and Holly Race Roughan’s nuanced direction), he’s actually just the kind of average joe (or Will) you might meet in any office, pub or at the match, making what happens almost more chilling.
Above and top: Corrina, Corrina. Photos by Helen Murray
Meanwhile David Crellin’s captain is a manager of easy platitudes but little genuine empathy whose sole focus is getting his cargo from A to B without trouble, be it from piracy or personal/personnel problems. When Corrina reports what happens to her during the course of the passage, it becomes just another HR issue to be dealt with and filed away.
While the title of the play lays the emphasis on Corrina herself, there are in effect two stories running in tandem here; her personal trauma - realised in strobing, nightmarish scenes, and the exploitation of the industry’s foreign crews.
Corrina finds common ground with deck hand Angelo (Bradwell) because both are effectively trapped – she by the intimidating and rigid hierarchical power structure on board ship and he by economic and social circumstances.
If Will is one baddie, the system they work under is the other, provoking much wider food for thought.
Above: Laura Elsworthy as Corrina and Mike Noble as Will. Photo by Helen Murray.
As Noble pointed out in an interview for this site: “It’s not HMS Pinafore.”
It’s not Triangle either, although narrow your eyes and you might just be able to picture Kate O’Mara gamely trying to catch some weak rays of North Sea sun on the vast expanse of Moi Tran’s visually very effective two deck set.
The action unfolds – or perhaps unravels might be more accurate – on its bow and its lofty bridge (where what you can see depends on what you’re looking out for), as well as below deck, its grey steel sides barely softened by the utilitarian tables, chairs and beds that pass for ‘home’ comforts.
They are atmospherically lit by Joshua Pharo while Max Perryment has created a soundscape of ordinary yet ominously oppressive metallic rumbles, hums and creaks which underscores what is a persuasive and very powerful piece of theatre.