This latest audio drama as part of the Written on the Waves project is an interesting concept but feels as though it needs more time to develop the story more.
Taking the idea of having to adapt to a new world and transforming it into a surreal sci-fi adventure, The Giant Octopus Maritime School is a really interesting concept for the penultimate audio drama in the Written on the Waves project.
Written by Jaclyn Backhaus, the story follows Priya and Ilya who live in a new community below the surface following a huge environmental disaster. But when bunking off school one day they discover that this new colony that they live in isn’t all that it appears.
Sleekly directed by Jessica Rose McVay, with brilliant sound design by Elisheba Ittoop that really immerses the listener into this dystopian world, the strength of the story lies in the way in which it brings together the ideas of climate change and adapting to a new way of living feels very pertinent to what is happening in the world at the moment. However, it feels as though it struggles in places to get the balance between being fun with bringing a serious message quite right, with the ending tying things up too neatly too quickly.
If the piece had a slightly longer running time to open the story up more and slowed down the pace it would mean that we could fully absorb the finer and more scientific elements of the story which can become a little bit muddled towards the middle.
However, this being said Elisheba Ittoop’s sound design completely immerses the listener completely, making them feel as though we are also part of Priya and Ilya’s world. The way in which she uses a huge variety of sounds to reflect different locations and moods is wonderfully creative and enhances the story nicely.
In terms of the performances, both Sam Crerar as Ilya and Amita Suman as Priya offer wonderfully warm and engaging characterisations that make them instantly likeable. Meanwhile, Adjoa Andoh as AI Emma is delightfully and increasingly sinister as the story unfolds, while in contrast Manjinder Virk as Seema is a calming presence amongst the increasing chaos and drama.
Overall, The Giant Pacific Octopus Maritime School is a fun and imaginative concept but needs a bit more work to develop the story in more depth to allow audiences to immerse themselves more in the world created so vividly by everyone involved.
By Emma Clarendon
The Giant Pacific Octopus Maritime School is available to listen to as part of Ellie Keel and 45North’s Written on the Waves project.