The Coastguard's Daughter

The Coastguard’s Daughter
Oh! My Clementine Storytelling and Theatre Company

Written & Produced by Olivia Lowry
Performed in Pentewan Church

Olivia Lowry has taken a true story from the heart of Pentewan and brought it to life in her incredibly moving first full length play.
We are transported back to WW1 as the women of Pentewan village send their men off to war in foreign lands, leaving behind the work that women were previously deemed unfit to undertake. The family at the centre of the story are the McDiarmids, sisters Olive and Irene, Helena their Mother and the younger children. Helena has said goodbye to her Coastguard husband and her only son, privately grieving as she believes they will not return. However life continues and Helena and her daughters are compelled to pick up the Coastguard’s role to warn sailors of the perils of the Cornish coastline. Not all the men have gone off to fight and the local fishermen make no secret of the madness of the womens’ decision, citing Coastguarding as men’s work, which only serves to infuriate all three women and fire up their determination to fill the gap left by their men.
The close relationship of the young sisters, beautifully played by Olivia Lowry and Mae Voogd, is warm and loving, with younger sister Irene (Olivia) completely reliant on big sister Olive (Mae). Irene and young Johnny Solomon (Louis King) are madly in love, Johnny missed the call to arms due to being underage, but he dreams of joining his brothers at the front and eventually signs up by lying about his age. Irene is devastated when he tells her what he has done and her heart breaks a second time when sister Olive announces her intention to join up as a nurse as soon as she is old enough.
Witnessing Johnny’s leaving scene is heart wrenching as we are left in no doubt that he will never return to his beloved Irene. More tears are to come as a mighty storm hits the coast and, with a ship in distress, Helena sends her daughters down to the sea with lamps. The heartbreak in the room is palpable as Olive is swept out to sea and young Irene is bereft at the loss of her dear sister. None of us was prepared for the moment when the terrible realisation dawns on Helena that she sent her beloved daughter to her death, Helena’s harrowing closing words reduced the audience to tears. Jenny Beare gives the performance of her life as Helena, with her final dialogue as the grieving Mother worthy of any professional stage in the country.
With very few quality roles for women, Olivia Lowry has succeeded in perfecting three strong roles in one fabulous piece; Jenny, Mae and Olivia play their roles to perfection and Louis is the epitome of a stubborn Cornish boy. The Coastguard’s Daughter is a tragic story, interwoven with lighter moments, shadow puppetry and glorious Cornish singing from the whole cast along with Mevagissey’s Press Gang. Closing the show with a rousing rendition of Cornwall My Home was an inspired and fitting end to the performance.
Director Rosanne Elliott’s experienced eye for detail and her close working relationship with the cast has created a compelling, beautiful piece of theatre which will surely garner support to take The Coastguard’s Daughter on a coastal tour of Cornwall.

Sheila Vanloo
April 2016

Article by: Sheila V