Theatre: If in doubt, tread water, but not a word to the audience

The Swell

Northcott Studio, Exeter

Theatre Alibi are nothing if not dogged. They have pursued a policy of physical moving theatre for 10 years. They are intent on creating atmospheres and impressions, a total theatrical experience no less, and to hell with text and plot when you have music and movement.

In they employ a trio of violin, guitar and mandolin, the players doubling on galvanised buckets and sheet metal. was inspired by a Vitascope clock, made in the Isle of Man in the Forties, a garish object that is the bane of auction houses. Though the clock does appear, it does not play a significant part in the proceedings. Gary McCann's steel mesh set can stand in for a ship and a pier, although at first sight it looks like the entrance of a toilet in a multi-storey car park. In front is a sandy beach with drainage outlets to deal with the quantities of water used throughout the piece.

Against this background, various incidents occur. A night-club fracas, last-minute rescues from drowning, mild flirtations, excursions to the DHS, wild dancing - all accompanied by whimsical folk music from the trio Spiro. Most seaside plays have a sense of time out of mind. In , there are periods of dullness followed by wild activity. Dialogue is spare and trite. The stories echo throughout, but nothing is resolved.

The incidents and the characters form a background of beach life, a mosaic with no overall design.

meanders through a seaside summer like a lazy film more interested in filming than in narrative. Indeed, the sharp cutting techniques employed could have been inspired by film. Offer some quick visual sketches, some only fragments, and leave them wondering while we get into the next sequence. When things get slow, bring on more water.

, by Dan Jamieson, directed by Nikki Sved, with Emma Rice, Henry Hawks, Jamieson and Hanna Young, is in the tradition of improvised theatre: ragged, woolly and inconclusive. This type of performance might be considered as daring, casting off without a rudder, and it is clear that the performers have a serious intent, but the play is daring without being dangerous. It washes over you without the sign of a challenge.

Touring to 2 April (01392 217315)

Allen Saddler

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