Sandcastles – Assembly Front Room

Written by Steve McMahon

Directed by Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Time and memory are fleeting – our most prized commodities, and in hindsight, their turbulent presence plays havoc with regret. Beth is moving to New York. Hannah should be happy for her, but she struggles. When Beth goes missing, Hannah struggles to reconcile with her initial response to Beth’s news. Steve McMahon’s Sandcastles dances the ripples of both time and memory to present both Beth and Hannah’s experiences with Beth’s departure.

It’s tough when a close friend achieves something, you haven’t – especially if that achievement takes them away from you. It’s a natural response, Hannah’s initial hurt at Beth’s plans feels entirely justified if a touch on the selfish size. To start, Sandcastles evokes a wholesome and emotional examination of the integral love associated with friendship, attempting to evolve into a piece on regret and angst.

The pair manage to capture the absolute purity in friendship, and the adoration they share with one another is entirely authentic – and in the case of Hannah’s desperate pleas to hear from her friend achieves a touching and even distressing performance. They carry humour well, Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir’s natural direction enabling the pair to build upon the threads of the story to flesh out their respective roles somewhat.

The true issue arises further into the tale we stretch, where the barriers of coherent storytelling become thinner, and the flow distorts. The narrative is intentionally fluid but falls into a habit of bouncing back and forth between time, location and even states of imagination with a flux that distorts the overarching impression of the show. And regrettably, while it never brushes into the mundane, the writing does become repetitive as the two characters take turns delivering monologues – the more successful moments when our cast shares the stage or shifting into the darker aspects of the script.

The ‘sand box’ stage, filled with scraps of paper offers a simplistic and clean staging, but with enough thought to enable an enriched presence of the titular themes of briefness and fleeting moments. There’s an aethereal presence to Sandcastles, a limbo-state which the lighting and sound design aid in conjuring, but the writing seems to lose itself in this very same realm of in-between.

Sandcastles builds high, but the very foundations aren’t stable enough to hold together the complex structure. And while the merit of explaining the pain we endure by tying ourselves to a chain of memory, McMahon’s script struggles to eloquently transcribe this narrative to audiences – despite the strong central performances, and clever staging structure.

Wholesome and emotional

Sandcastles runs at Assembly Front Room until August 27th.

Photo Credit – Mihaela Bodlovic

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