City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Eric's Tales of the Sea - A Submariner's Yarn Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 06 August 2011

Eric's Tales of the Sea - Photo Alex Brenner
Show details
Running time: 
Eric (director / writer), Sean Brightman (technician)
Eric (himself)

We enter the long, dark, distinctly damp sub-terranian curved space to the sound of sonar pings and a slowly resolving video introduction to a submarine world. In particular we here to dive into the memories of Eric, now self styled “Funniest comedian … in Sidcup”, but for seventeen years a submariner with the Royal Navy.

The show has built up a radar presence and garnered a number of plaudits and awards at the Fringe over the last three years and while listed under Comedy is almost in a genre of its own. It’s not stand-up, nor a fantastical Jules Verne adventure, but rather a series of personal anecdotes spanning his life beneath the waves – or as much as the Official Secrets Act will allow. In its bare bones, raconteur style telling it’s reminiscent of Peter Searle’s “A Chile Christmas”.

It’s a difficult format to pull off but Eric is a master and quickly draws us down into the depths of submarine life with its deprivations, tensions, dangers and gallows humour. Both funny and touching these are tales of the sea told with a veracity that you quickly realise you just couldn’t make up. Sometimes the truth is stranger, and funnier, than fiction.

The stories may be everyday but they are anything but mundane. They are so far removed from normal daily experience as to be worthy of Don Quixote. It appears that life on a nuclear submarine can involve bizarre initiations, escapes from 603 feet below the sea, dead donkeys, creative culinary creations, barbeques, shark encounters, damp socks, catching frozen fish and more pranks than you can shake a periscope at.

By its nature, the show relies on providing us non-submariners with a bit of technical background and it has something of the feel of a training session with diagrams and photos. Again, it’s to Eric’s credit that his story telling skill skirts away from being nerdy and he manages to bring light and warmth to the dark depths while holding the audiences attention throughout.

Despite all the escape drills, it appears that submariners are never truly free of the experience of living like sardines with men they just have to get on with. The show is about more than the operation of a potent weapon and potential steel coffin and at its heart, there rests human frailty, warmth, compassion and friendship.

The knowledgeable Eric denounces all submarine themed movies as “pants”, with the exception of Das Boot. He doesn’t quote the film’s Lieutenant Werner but there is a resonance in his words - “They made us all train for this day. To be fearless and proud and alone. To need no one, just sacrifice. Oh God, all just empty words. It's not the way they said it was, is it?   I just want someone to be with”.

Surfacing from Eric’s immersive world back into the light, you suck down a lungful of fresh air with a bit of relief and just a touch of regret.

Show times: 4-28 August (except 17 and 22) 3.10pm

Ticket prices: £8.50 - £9.50