Pool (no water)

Aug 17 2021 | By More

★★★☆☆      Patchy

theSpace Triplex (Venue 38): Sun 8 – Sat 28 Aug 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

Pool (no water) from New Celts and Oddly Ordinary reaches high in its intent. The end result is decidedly mixed, with elements that impress and others that infuriate.

Mark Ravenhill’s play – as well as featuring a great deal of the strong language that is one of his trademarks – is an unusual and challenging work in many ways. The script, about a group of artists who revel in the misfortune of a previous associate who has become successful, is written without the lines being assigned to particular characters.

Aodhan Mallon, Amy Dallas and Isaac Wilson. Pic: Oddly Ordinary

This means that the various performers (often four, but three in this case) perform more as a kind of Greek Chorus than as individual entities. Director Sophie Brierton has tried hard to fashion three distinct characters for performers Amy Dallas, Aodhán Mallon and Isaac Wilson. This succeeds admirably, but problems remain.

The main issue is that the people presented – self-absorbed, self-justifying narcissists, who are willing to take advantage of an accident in the waterless pool of the title – are impossible to care about. Ten minutes spent in their company is more than enough; an hour and ten minutes feels like purgatory.

That title – usually rendered all in lower case, and simultaneously pretentious and too literal in its description of the action – encapsulates the play. If you think it is clever, you will love all of it; if you find it annoying, you will probably be annoyed by the play too.

This can be overcome by stressing the visceral nature of what was originally conceived largely as a piece of physical theatre, with its attempts at visual and sonic overload, scenes of hedonistic excess and drug-fuelled partying and general ‘dial everything up to 11’ ethos.

a gloopily mind-expanding quality

Despite the best efforts of this production, this often fails to come off. Much of the staging is static, with three people sitting on chairs and occasionally swapping positions. The more extreme moments, meanwhile, are hampered by a belief that simply shouting equates to a demonstration of extreme emotions.

The more physical elements are much more successful. The fact that all three performers look decidedly ill-at-ease even holding a cigarette does not bode well, but the scenes of chemically induced abandon have a gloopily mind-expanding quality, and the movement is well choreographed.

The swearing fares worse, with a lack of conviction meaning that it comes across as a juvenile attempt to shock rather than an inherent part of the character.

Despite all of this, the impetus given by the performers means that the energy levels remain high. Dallas is skittish and fearful of addiction, Mallon expansive and self-deludingly romantic, Wilson wild eyed and self-loathing, and there is a chemistry between them that means you believe they are a group of old friends, albeit one who function more as each others’ excusers and enablers rather than any kind of support.

When the production moves beyond the everyday, the technical side – handled by William Dron and Iain Davie – is extremely impressive. There is certainly enough here to sustain interest, overambitious and decidedly patchy though it may be.

Running time 1 hour 10 minutes (no interval)
theSpace Triplex, The Prince Phillip Building, Hill Pl, EH8 9DP (venue 38)
Sunday 8 – Saturday 28 August 2021 (even dates only)
3.10 pm (even dates only)

Information and tickets at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/pool-no-water
Facebook: @OddlyOrdinaryCo


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