REVIEW: The Soaking of Vera Shrimp @ Live Theatre
The Soaking of Vera Shrimp, a part science presentation, part heart-felt teenage story gives an insight into a 14 year old’s troubles during grief. Allison Carr’s one-woman show was a quirky and unique way to approach a play – and it worked.
Vera Elizabeth Shrimp treats the audience as though they are classmates for the science project she has been assigned by her teacher, Mr Gibbs. The set resembled a classroom and the actress used props ranging from whiteboards to an overhead projector. I felt like I was back at school.
Vera’s science presentation becomes more of a vessel for her feelings as she explains her ability to sense emotions from drops of rain. The emotion is passed on when it lands near a person. By collecting and feeling the rain that falls near her bus shelter, Vera shows the audience her meticulously organised post-it-note collection and engages them with notions of what certain emotions feel like, or what they taste like.
Tessa Parr plays the eccentric Vera Shrimp, at the beginning of the play portraying a happy, care-free 14 year old. But as the play develops, Vera’s struggles with her friends and father after her mother’s recent death become more apparent and the writing showcases clever ways to remind older members of the audience of how kids can be cruel, as she deals with incessant bullying from her fellow classmates.
The use of flipcharts and an iPod dock gives a unique twist to the traditional play setting. Audience members were made to feel involved with the use of cue cards to read aloud. Even chocolate crispy cakes were handed around for all to enjoy as she carries on with her presentation.
The Soaking of Vera Shrimp had the audience members laughing throughout as Tessa Parr plays a 14 year old with an uncanny believability. It’s easy to forget that she is not, in fact, actually 14. Vera asks the audience questions throughout, often staring at them with innocent wide eyes in hope they will answer, showing her vulnerability.
The mood of the play darkens as she states that her father is in a coma, and was found floating in a river where her mother’s ashes were scattered. As the play comes to a close Vera presents her idea of a gravitational pull experiment she then tells the audience that she plans to do the experiment on herself, by falling from a height to see how long it will take for her to hit the ground. This leaves a dark and eerie quietness as Vera leaves the stage, and we are left to think what the fate of Vera Shrimp will be.
Allison Carrs script is humorous and playful, yet with serious undertones. It was obvious the audience were engaged and invested in the life Vera Shrimp. If I could leave one criticism, it would be there’s so many unanswered questions about Vera, including her raindrop powers. I imagine this was deliberate, but a character this interesting begs questions of those watching and it’s frustrating that they’ll never be answered. However, despite that, it was a delight to watch, and an excellent way of portraying a young girls mind in a way all ages can relate to.