International Waters

Apr 3 2016 | By More

★★★☆☆      Choppy seas
Traverse Theatre: Wed 30 Mar – Sat 2 Apr 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

There are enough ideas in David Leddy’s International Waters for several plays. However, this particular one, while intelligent and energetic, does not always convince.

In Fire Exit’s co-production with Glasgow’s the Tron, economic meltdown has left even the ‘one percent’ seeking refuge abroad. An economic adviser, a writer, a faded pop star and a banker’s wife find themselves on the last container ship out of London. But the ship is going in the wrong direction, they are not allowed to leave their cabin, and the captain is not answering them.

Claire Dargo, Robin Laing and Selina Boyack. Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Claire Dargo, Robin Laing and Selina Boyack. Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

There is a definite dark momentum to the play, and the first few minutes – notably, the breakdown of society being symbolised by a battle between Barbie dolls – suggest it is going to be fascinating. There is certainly no shortage of ideas, with clear references to several other well-known plays and novels on similar subjects, with full marks for chutzpah for a play featuring four characters stuck in a room that can quote Sartre’s Huis Clos directly early on.

However, it is never becomes as intriguing as its premise suggests, with the clever notion of privileged people suddenly becoming refugees given less impact by the stereotyped nature of the characters. The causes of the meltdown in society that has occurred are sketchy, and later events seeking to clarify this issue make it more rather than less confusing.

While it is often clever, and regularly funny, it does not succeed entirely either as political satire or as farce. The dissonant electronic noises, bodily fluids and shouting that dominate may be supposed to be disorienting, or to combine horror and beauty, but instead become repetitive and tiresome. Danny Krass’s striking sound design in particular suffers from intrusive overuse.

teetering gloriously

The cast certainly give their utmost, aided by Leddy’s direction, Becky Minto’s elegantly crumpled set and Nich Smith’s lighting. Claire Dargo, Robin Laing and Selina Boyack all throw themselves into proceedings with a will. Lesley Hart, teetering gloriously, always threatening to throw herself off balance physically and mentally, is particularly engaging.

The trouble is that that they do not have enough light and shade to work with. The realisation that the sources of their power, wealth and influence have gone should do something to the characters, but they remain little more than ciphers. The more contemplative moments work well, but are few and far between, and largely occur when the storyline has lost its way.

It runs out of steam before the end, but there is always something of interest here, even if it fails to deliver on its promise.

Running time 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Wednesday 30 March – Saturday 2 April 2016
Daily at 7.30 pm.
Tickets and details:

Purchase the script from Amazon (click on the image for details)

International Waters on tour:
Weds 30 March – Sat 2 April Edinburgh
Traverse Theatre
0131 228 1404 Book online
Tues 5 April Aberdeen
The Lemon Tree
01224 641122 Book online
Fri 8 April Stirling
Macrobert Arts Centre
01786 466666 Book online


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