Thursday, 29 September 2016

Selkies and Humans

Selkie by Caroline Emerick 2013

Despite its ‘otherworldly’ subject matter, ‘The Selkie Wife’ deals with all too human dilemmas.

An amusing subplot shows the effect a handsome young man, particularly one whose knowledge of social morality is loose, has on an impressionable teenage girl; fathers of young girls will fully sympathise with Cal as he tries vainly to protect his daughter’s honour and her ‘peanut butter virginity’.

A more serious central image is that of ‘the walkers’: couples who unconsciously give mutual physical protection as they walk along the cliff edge, because, as Mary explains to Dylan, if something bad should happen, each wants to look after the other: ‘they’d rather be dead than the one left behind’.

This idea of loving someone else more than oneself is contrasted with the Selkie life of individual freedom: attractive to anyone who has been abused and denied freedom, as the women in the play have: the fear of making oneself vulnerable to more hurt by falling in love again is implicit in the character of Gen, who struggles to understand why Mary has made a life on land with Cal.

Striking, funny, heart-rending and beautifully written, ‘The Selkie Wife’ also gives the audience much to ponder.

So what is a Selkie?

Selkie is the dialect word for seal in the Orkney Islands, where the Selkie Folk are still a local  myth. Indeed, the song which haunts our upcoming production of ‘The Selkie Wife’ at The Apollo is itself from the Orkneys – more about that in another blog.

The basic folklore, of Celtic origin, and possibly connected to the Scandinavian myth of the Finfolk, is of creatures able to shift their form from seals into humans and back again, through the casting off and putting on of their seal skin. In some variations they can only transform at certain times, and many tales have humans concealing their mates’ seal skins to hold them to their human form.

There are many tales of Selkies, most suggesting that in human form, these creatures are alluring and mesmerising: they can mate with humans and their children can themselves become selkies. Tales abound of Selkies finding their skins after years on land and deserting their human partners, often taking their children with them.

Selkies are variously believed to be a water-borne form of fairyfolk;  humans who for some misdemeanour were condemned to spend their life as seals, and souls of humans who had drowned. Kelley Jo Burke has taken a variation of the last explanation as a basis for her beautiful and thought-provoking play.

‘The Selkie Wife’ will be staged at The Apollo Theatre on 21st, 22nd and 25th-29th October at 7.30pm.
For tickets and further information please visit:

Monday, 26 September 2016

Our director introduces.....The Selkie Wife.

The next production at the Apollo Theatre will be ‘The Selkie Wife’, a play by Canadian author Kelley Jo Burke.  Her work is well known in her home country but the Apollo is proud and delighted to announce that this will be the UK premiere of this particular play.

The director is Ginnie Orrey.  More usually seen on the Apollo stage, Ginnie has chosen to direct this complex and beautifully written play after seeing it in a tiny theatre on the Canadian prairies and subsequently meeting the author, who is ‘absolutely thrilled’ that her play will be travelling to the Isle of Wight.  She found her inspiration in the Celtic myth of ‘selkies’ – seals who shed their sealskins to come on to dry land, find a mate and have children and then return to the sea.  Kelley Jo has turned the myth on its head by focusing on a selkie who chooses to keep her human form and stay on land with her husband and family, and the difficult decisions she has to make when another selkie comes to take her back to the water.

The cast includes Apollo stalwarts Ian Moth and Sue Edwards, alongside relative newcomers Esther Poucher and Maureen Sullivan, and introduces Josh Pointing, from the Isle of Wight Shakespeare Company. 

‘The Selkie Wife’ opens on 21 October and runs to 29 October.