‘Selkie’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

‘Selkie’ is a creepy legend, based on the Gaelic mythological seal-like creature, ‘The Selkie’. A Selkie can shed its skin and live on land for very short periods. This beautifully written, confrontational tale comes from the pen of Finn O’Branagáin, whose work had huge success in Perth last year.

The 70-minute performances of this Renegade / Harriet Roberts co-production can be seen in the main theatre of the Blue Room, James Street, Northbridge commencing at 7.00 pm each evening until Saturday 30th April.


There is a single row of chairs around this ‘in the round’ set.

The set, designed by Cherish Marrington, comprises a 3-metre, circular platform, raised about 15 cms off the floor. It is patterned with old Gaelic symbols; this is seaside shack of the fisherman. Stage managed by Meabh Walton.

White gauze is draped towards the centre of the ceiling. Thin strips of polythene hang from the roof, and with the clever lighting (designer, Joe Lui) the overall effect is of realistic icicles and snow – very appropriate for the north of Scotland. The lighting temperature changed with the mood of the script.

        The lights rise to show a creature (Cherish Marrington also designed the costumes), with fur on its shoulders, long clawed fingers and a thin skin that showed the bone structure and blood vessels beneath. It is a Selkie (Yilin Kong). She is slithering and undulating her way around the beach, stalked by a fisherman (Kynan Hughes) who is carrying a towel. He is trying to wrap and protect the creature that is shivering and distressed.

      Back in the house, a young girl, Rónnad (Ella Hetherington) is waking up. Immediately she starts searching for something that she has lost, but she is interrupted by the fisherman (Paul Grabovac) who found her lying on the beach after a storm.

      The lonely fisherman took her to his home and is now trying to get some strength back into her frail body. It is a long time since he has enjoyed company in his house. He tries her with various foods, but she has a penchant for fish.

      This is a sad tale of deep love and affections that appears doomed from the start, but can adoration overcome the problems?


O’Branagáin’s tale was first released to the Curtin Uni theatre students about 6 months ago, allowing the author to see how the script worked on stage. Playwright, Finn, has made small changes to the dialogue for this presentation.

At the Hayman Theatre in Curtin, it was beautifully performed as a simple tale. Now, the much-admired director of this show, Joe Lui, has further developed the story, giving it a clever, second dimension; this is a flashback that looks at what happened weeks earlier, whilst the main story is being enacted centre stage. The result is skilful and intriguing, but possibly a little too ingenious and complex (?).

As with all of Joe Lui’s plays, the soundscape includes specially composed music coupled with complex sound effects. This show ranges from thunderous storms to soft – almost inaudible – sensitive melodies.

Talented choreographer, Laura Boynes, has been given a wonderful pair of gifted dancer to direct. Kynan and Yilin seem to float across the stage as though they were frolicking in the ocean. Yilin gave a heart pulling performance as she lay exposed to the elements twitching on the beach, you could feel her suffering. Ella and Paul, who have had numerous acting nominations over the years, added greatly to the depth of this unusual tale.

An exceptional show of movement, love and deceit.