Colm Primrose, a fisherman from the wild coast of Ireland, loves his work, his boat, his fishing buddies, and the sea in all its moods. Living in a small, rural community, he has no telephone, no modern conveniences–and no wife. While at a local wedding, he sees Timothea, a young woman from Liverpool, to whom he eventually writes a letter. Their correspondence, in which he describes his life, continues for eighteen months, before she returns to the area for another wedding. Before long, she has persuaded him to visit her in Liverpool, where she works for a publisher.
Their relationship, the first ever for Colm, provides sweet romance, but the seeds of disaster are sown from the beginning, when Timothea has his letters published as “sonnets.” Described by publicists as “primitive,” the unschooled Colm finds himself, unexpectedly, a celebrity poet, in demand for talks to clubs. Like the proverbial fish out of water, however, Colm misses the sea and “the heads,” while Timothea, who has escaped to Liverpool from rural Wales, wants never to live the primitive life again. Their love, which drives the first act of the play, becomes the conflict which drives the second act.
Gardner McKay has created a romantic drama which glorifies the life of the fisherman and his ties to the most basic elements of wind and weather. The visual contrast between the wild Irish coast in this filmed-for-television production and the seamy side of Liverpool illustrate the themes. The plot is simple–and predictable–but George Hearn manages to make Colm a real person experiencing real agonies as he tries to reconcile his first experience with love with his need to return to his roots. Veronica Castang, as the more experienced lover, plays her role with a lovely softness, which disguises her selfish side, seen in her refusal to consider leaving the city and her determination to persuade Colm to remain.
This Broadway Theatre Archive production from 1976, contains themes as relevant today as they were then–the desire for love, the need for openness to new experiences, and the beauties of the simple life vs. the city life. The attractions of a life as raw and primitive as Colm’s may be less appealing today than they were in 1976, however, and the conflict is so basic that the conclusion is obvious from the beginning of the play. Still, Hearn makes Colm such an attractive character that one hopes that he will achieve happiness by finding both a lover and a continued life on the sea he loves. A well-acted romantic drama.