“a thoroughly entertaining play full of tension, betrayal, and spite”

‘It appeals. It tempts. There is beauty here’; Mark Ravenhill’s play is an unusual and challenging work in many ways which directors Molly Matthews and Tia Fay have handled with great skill, especially since 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. ‘Pool (no water)’ brought to you by GDTC is a visceral and shocking play about the fragility of friendship and the jealousy and resentment inspired by success.

The set couldn’t reflect the title of the play more if it tried, it is an elegant, gleaming, white-tiled space: part empty swimming pool topped off with the excellent use of lighting provided by Tech Swing Gemma Parker. There was one technical blip occurred in the final scene as the music cut out for a split-second, but this very minor. The drug-induced madness of the penultimate scene is amplified with momentary sparks of light, pulsating like epileptic synapses, to which all five actors moved in time to and effectively. It is subtle, fleeting, and understated. 

The opening scene gave the vibe of a piece of contemporary choreography. Each character is utterly self-absorbed. This lends each a distinct identity from the start and is delicately done, but at the same time wholly indicative of the group’s egocentricity which they are about to lay bare. Despite this, the collective nature of the cast is always apparent with fluid uses of synchronicity in dialogue where require. At some times the narration felt a little confused but again that is largely due to Ravenhill not allocating the dialogue to characters. Nonetheless, the exceptional use of movement and blocking must be noted with Matthews and fay ensuring that the actors made great use of the whole stage.

Furthermore, the cast’s gritty, filmic naturalism makes you feel you are not so much a part of the audience, as participants in some sort of group counselling session. Both Hidayat Malik and Ayana de Zoysa were particularly complimentary in providing some comedy despite its satirical nature. De Zoysa cleverly depicts a friend teetering on the edge of reason despite being too far in with the actions of the group to do much about it. Malik’s brilliant facial and physical expressions gave him some pretty crafty and deviant characteristics. Lex Irish must be credited for his tone and projection, occasionally stealing the show by superbly heightening the tension, especially with his drunk and disorderly antics. Abigail Taylor gave a convincing depiction of a jealous friend, emanating a snobbish and arrogant member of the arts industry. Lily Knowles is the perfect representation of an emotional mess it is difficult to determine what her emotional state is throughout, largely due to her chaotic traits and lack of coherence which was well depicted by Knowles’ energetic nature.

Overall, ‘Pool (no water)’ was a thoroughly entertaining play full of tension, betrayal, and spite which feels very relevant to a community of artists. It is a much watch chiefly due to the end result being decidedly mixed, with elements that impress and others that infuriate.

By Hollie Akers

Pool (no water) is performing at the Assembly Rooms theatre until 15th March

Photo Credits: Green Door