Selkie (4 stars)

Every time I head into Perth’s Blue Room Theatre, I am surprised. It’s a rare show that has a conventional seating plan, and Selkie is no different. This time, the rows of seats line all four walls, creating an arena for the main action. An ornate round stage graces the centre and then – blackout.

A dancer in a strange seal-like costume, stripped to the muscle and bone lays, cutting a tortured figure on the floor.


A woman in a checked shirt and denim cutoffs sits, hugging her knees, mirroring the dancer on the floor.


Two men join the two women. One, a dancer, offers a towel as a silent olive branch to the crumpled figure on the ground. The other, offers his hand to the sitting woman.

So begins Selkie.

It’s a bold piece about the displacement of culture, adapting, fitting in (or not), oppression in relationships, control, fear, and self-identity. And that’s just the subtext. The main story centres on the mythical Gaelic creature – the selkie – which exists as a seal in water, and can shed their sealskin to assume human form on land.

The idea for the play came to playwright Finn O’Brannigain after re-visiting the stories of her childhood. “The idea of a strange woman from the ocean living amongst fishermen seemed magical and romantic when I was younger, but when re-reading with an adult lens, critical engagement, and the growing discussion of domestic abuse, this fantastical faerie-creature that was captured and kept now appeared to be a metaphor for keeping foreign and exoticised women captive as wives.”

The actors perform their tension-filled dialogue alongside the silent dancers performing a tete-a-tete with each other that borders on physical violence and repression at times. This is a powerful technique as one feels they are witnessing the violent inner struggle of the actor’s psyches.

Selkie is not for the faint-heated, it’s stomach-churningly good theatre that highlights the dangers of othering and capturing the ‘exotic.’

When: 12th – 30th April 2016 (7pm)

Where: The Blue Room Theatre, PERTH

Tickets: $18 – $28

Info: Duration 50 minutes; Q & A session Wednesday 20th April; Suitable 15+