An audio play written by Jaclyn Backhaus and directed by Jessica Rose McVay, The Giant Pacific Octopus Maritime School is part of 45North’s Written on the Waves series.
We are in the EM Forster area of the future here, as we were in The Machine Stops. The outside world has been abandoned, and two girls, Priya and Ilya, are researching their history project at school.
One of them has lost both her parents, the other has a mother who works as a scientific doctor. They have no memory of what is on the surface, and accept their world’s regulation by machines (in this case. AI Emma, made as sinister by Adjoa Andoh as HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey).
As the girls, there are keen and convincing performances from Anita Suman (Priya) and Sam Crerar (Ilya). When Majinder Virk (Seema) joins the tale, a sense of calm courage washes over the piece.
Playing with the idea of a climate calamity forcing a whole community underground (shades of The Artilleryman’s dream in War of the Worlds), this play has an important message but it may require a slightly longer running time to fully explore all the detail (what is it really like to ‘breach the surface’, for example?)
The Giant Pacific Octopus School, with its schoolgirl heroes stepping out from their classroom to uncover a secret about their world, has the feel of a children’s drama, but then has a tonal shift which is not entirely convincing.
However, this is an ambitious production (with excellent sound design from Elisheba Ittoop), and there is definite scope for it to develop into a more cohesive whole.
You can access The Giant Pacific Octopus School and other dramas in the Written on the Waves series here (free to listen).
Check out my other reviews from this series.