Venue: Southwark Stayhouse (online during the lockdown closure of Southwark Playhouse until June 28)
Producer: Bear Trap Theatre

Running time: 80 minutes
Written and directed by Jesse Briton
Cast: Thomas Bennett, James Crocker, Joe Darke, Alan Devally, Daniel Foxsmith, John McKeever.


Money and heroic self-sacrifice have been considered throughout history the rational motivations for risking life.

In pandemic lockdown, we’re more aware of that than ever as governments weigh economic damage and national health, while workers battling on the frontline make the ultimate sacrifice.

As a result, Southwark Playhouse’s 2011 production of Bound, released online as part of the Southwark Stayhouse lockdown offering, has new resonance.

Premiered at Edinburgh in 2009 to deserved acclaim, Jesse Briton’s drama explores how desperation for money impels six trawlermen, five from Devon and one a Pole supplied by an agency, to risk it all.

The subsequent decade has rendered the story more relevant not less.  BREXIT makes us analyse the presence of a migrant worker in the fishing industry and the confines of a shipping vessel as it heads into a force 11 gale are a metaphor for trying to lock ourselves up against forces we can only aspire to control.

The shaky quality of the filming in the dank vault theatre at one of Southwark Playhouse’s previous venues almost adds to the drama as we peer into the darkness and the ship’s lantern sways.

Drawing on classic techniques, Briton builds the tension and the cast layer by layer.  We begin with Kerdzic, the Polish agency worker, played by Thomas Bennett, initially clownish, increasingly knowing at the action unfolds, interspersed with powerful sea shanties sung unaccompanied by the cast.

One by one, the rest of the crew come onboard the ill-fated Violet.  Officially, they are led by John McKeever as the deceitful Captain Woods, but chief rabble-rouser is Joe Darke as the puppy-like Graham, who by rights should have all his life before him as he banters and scraps with his fellow crew members.  He touches every raw nerve, but in the confines of a ship in a storm, solidarity has to be a stronger force than resentment or irritation.

It could all end well, with a record haul and a monopoly in the marketplace, but the one motive that outweighs the financial is human loyalty, even to a Polish crew member they barely know and his brother they have never met.  That means heading deeper into the force 11 gale.  What could be more dramatic?

Barbara Lewis © 2020.