Marking the 41st anniversary of the Penlee Lifeboat disaster, Into the Night has been re-released by Original Theatre Company for an online production based on the book Penlee: The Loss of a Lifeboat by Michael Sagar-Fenton. This is a tragic true story and a showcase of bravery by the greatest acts of courage and humanity by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Credit: Helen Maybanks

In 1981, the penlee lifeboat ‘Solomon Browne’ was launched in hurricane conditions to aid the recovery of passengers from the coaster ‘Union Star’ which had been swept towards the southern coast of Cornwall. Set in a time with minimal technology (no mobiles to communicate like today) this real story takes the audience on an unforgettable journey of bravery in the attempt of rescue.

Frazer Flintham has adapted this deeply narrative tale with captivating writing. This reimagining gives a respectful retelling of hard-hitting rawness that is delivered professionally and thoughtfully by each of the actors. Within the documentary presentation, the use of direct talking to the camera adds a level of engagement compliments the closeness that is allowed by the high-quality recording – an added intimacy and inclusion that drew me in as a viewer.

Credit: Helen Maybanks

Each attribute of the show is well thought out and true to the period and setting of Cornwall with traditional music and added audible recordings of the real conversations. The recreation by the actors is as authentic as possible with incomprehensible calmness in crew members’ speech, even while the terrifying conditions they were in, really adding a natural tone to this intensely dramatic scenario.

The simplistic set allows for the striking lighting design by Jason Taylor and superb sound design from Dominic Bilkey to set the scenes in a theatrically realistic manner. The additional collaboration of the projection design by Ryan Gilmartin makes this production feel immersive to the conditions and feelings of those on board. This vision bought to life sea, air, and land into one rehearsal space community hall which is beyond commendable. Models and maps are used to set locations and educate on this event in an easy-to-follow way, which I appreciated as an audience member who didn’t know much about boats. I have definitely gone away with a deeper respect for what the RNLI do.

Credit: Helen Maybanks

Even though it was recorded, it has the sense of liveness that theatre brings – and the mistakes that come with that, which I only felt enhanced the performance and my enjoyment of it. It is hard to believe the production only had two weeks of rehearsals and the broadcasted performance was the first full dress of the show, as from an outside eye it looked so effortlessly achieved. The use of cameras is clever and enhances the production with proximity and movement as though the actors are really on a moving boat. This project is a great example of different creative worlds coming together with a vision and willingness to trust in each other’s abilities.

The overall story is so powerful and one I am glad is being retold to keep the memories of these people alive in a way that shows human connection and the importance of volunteering. It is a telling that is honest and thought-provoking and hard to believe is true due to its unfathomable conditions.

Credit: Helen Maybanks

Original Theatre Company Online allows you to watch engaging theatre directly from your home, sharing stories that deserve a platform to everyone across the world. I am very excited to see what they will create next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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