A tragic romance, The Spring Tide jumps between the older and younger versions of Lan and Suzy at various stages of their relationship. In both pairings, the Lans (Nellie McQuinn and Anita Parry) were the stronger of the two: with their passion and precision they often ended up carrying their scenes. Nellie McQuinn did especially well, considering her partner – the young Suzy – lacked conviction and needed to be more present.

Out of the two, the scenes with the older versions of the couple were more compelling and the younger ones, while energetic in parts, were mainly there to fill in backstory. In the second act, when we already knew the broad strokes of their relationship, these scenes descended into being superfluous distractions from the main story.

The scenery didn't add anything to the piece. At the back of the stage, there was a collage of photos painted over to look like the sea and sky, but these had little relevance to the play as a whole. The stage was littered with wooden crates that were rearranged by the actors between scenes; however, they were too cumbersome to be moved swiftly, thus making the transitions clunky. The boxes didn't fit the minimalist aesthetic and stuck out because they had no place in the narrative.

As per usual in a gay romance, one of the characters goes through a "straight crisis", acquiring a husband and son in the process. While the husband Tim took a while to warm up, his son Lewis (Pierro Niel Mee) was consistent throughout. Mee's performance as an angst-ridden teenager was raw, powerful and gave a different dynamic to the piece. His twitchy, unsettled persona was somewhat blurred by the fact that he put as much venom and emphasis into almost everything he said; nevertheless, his self-torturing soul was undoubtedly a highlight of the piece.

In general, the moments that really flew were the high-stakes arguments, when characters fought their corner as if their life depended on it. The break-up scene in particular was a joy, with husband and wife screaming at each other over practical elements of the separation and past failures of their relationship. This scene was also helped by pockets of humour that broke, and sometimes added to, the tension.

It felt as if the play relied too heavily on the very fact that the romance was a lesbian one in order to be interesting. The writer, Carol Vine, embraced this aspect with explicit, extended sexual references. However the director, Graham Hubbard, seemed to shy away from the physical dimension of their relationship, only having the couple kiss at the end of a scene before a black-out. This lack of romantic connection between both pairs of leads meant that there was little to no sexual tension between them, and they weren't entirely believable as a couple.

Clarity was needed throughout the piece. Apart from a few sparing references, it was hard to gauge where and when the events were taking place. Also, the final fate of the characters seems the result of random chance and so doesn't prove anything to the audience other than "sh*t happens".

Certain threads appeared either redundant or not explored enough. Lan mentions the sea multiple times and, with the title and the backdrop, you expect it to be a significant thematic part of the piece, but it isn't. The character Alan is brought in for the penultimate scene simply to explain what has happened to another character, which could easily have been covered in a monologue. Lighting and blowing out candles is a recurring image used to symbolise death, but as noted by Tim, Suzy is an atheist, and therefore the lighting of a candle is meaningless.

Although mistakes were made and a few screws needed tightening, The Spring Tide benefits from moments of genuine tension and some stand-out performances. A simple love story at heart, it will move those it speaks to.

The Spring Tide, at Old Red Lion TheatreNik Way reviews The Spring Tide at the Old Red Lion.3