Jemma Redgrave and Ewan Miller in Octopolis. [The Other Richard]

In Marek Horn’s imaginatively layered play, two scientists bond while studying an octopus. Professor George Grey (Jemma Redgrave) is a respected behavioural biologist who, together with her late husband, carried out pioneering research into octopus intelligence.

After his death, George remains in her campus accommodation with Frances, an octopus who inhabits a giant, purpose-built tank. George stops teaching and becomes increasingly reclusive. Their quiet sanctuary is disturbed by Harry (Ewan Miller), an ambitious anthropologist, tasked with a research assignment of his own and eager to test his theory.

George and Harry are immediately suspicious of one another but their mutual interest in Frances, and endless curiosity, gradually thaws their chilly reserve and an intimacy develops.

We never meet Frances but the changing colour of her aquarium (courtesy of Jamie Platt’s lighting) suggests her presence. Frances’ camouflage, George observes, reflects an awareness of her social environment and is a form of communication.

Octopolis is partly set in the past, concludes in the present but also imagines an alternative future where the pair dance to David Bowie. Balancing humour and pathos, it’s superbly acted and Ed Madden’s pitch-perfect production is quietly mesmerising.

Until October 28

Originally publshed by Camden New Journal