by Diana Miranda
New Celts Productions and Oddly Ordinary Theatre Company presents their take on pool (no water), a show that delves into the drive that a group of artists find in envy and ambition after an incident with one of their friends, the successful one. Written by Mark Ravenhill, the script has no assigned parts for any specific character. This leaves freedom for each production to explore and devise the motivations behind the text, as if the lines themselves were abstract protagonists that take human shape when a show sets them in motion.
Directed by Sophie Brierton, this piece introduces three young characters. Sitting barefoot on stools, they smoke as they tell the story of their student days, the good old times before things got hard. They talk about her, the successful one, who nowadays would still sometimes visit their exhibitions in the bohemian quarter. They also talk about the invitation to her new pool.
As the play moves forward, the storytelling becomes dreamlike. The text is beautifully written with simple but poetic lines that the actors deliver smoothly, coupled with fluid movements neatly matched with the dialogue. The physicality, along with the lighting design’s visual lift and the ingenious manipulation of a few props, make pool (no water) a captivating piece. It succeeds in exploring the craving for fame and the unexpected, dark places where one may find inspiration. Once the protagonists find it, what follows is a grim account of that newly found vitality.
The cast’s energy is remarkable. They pierce the air with sharp glances, intoxicating movements and voices that go from guilt-ridden whispers to heated bursts of anger. While this production neatly outlines characters with individual personalities, it frames the group as a wicked trio that, together, play with the thread of their peer’s destiny after that visit to the pool. Amy Dallas shows great emotional intensity, Aodhán Mallon is graceful in a way that feels seductively threatening, and Isaac Wilson is the introvert with occasional glimpses of compassion. As a group, they create a balance that displays all the faces of envy.
The ending comes abruptly with a sense of calmness that contrasts too radically with the energy built throughout the show. There is a cheerful ending that seems to break the spell. However, it also offers the opportunity to reflect on who the real antagonist is, which fits Oddly Ordinary Theatre’s aim to reflect on humanity and encourage the audiences to debate the terms “ordinary” and “normal”. The characters this production creates incite both sympathy and outrage and – whichever we lean towards – pool (no water) leaves a striking mark.
pool (no water) runs through 28 August.
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