Pool (No Water)

Sun 21st – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Jade Symons

at 00:21 on 27th Aug 2011

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Pool (No Water), which was performed by “Bell Jar Productions”, proved to be a piece that was both rewarding and difficult to watch - at the same time.

I hesitate to refer to the piece as a play, for this frenetic, fast-paced, powerful performance combined beautifully choreographed physical montages, with angry torrents of human emotion - a mix which seemed to blend together incredibly well.

The somewhat pretentious and unlikeable characters onstage (a deliberate ploy by the writer, not the fault of the cast), seemed to hold up a mirror to the darker elements of the human psyche, making the piece distinctly uncomfortable to watch - but also strangely compelling and addictive.

The envious and vengeful elements of human thought were magnified and conveyed admirably (and also bravely) by the cast, who allowed the audience little respite from the anger and emotional pain of the characters.

Pauses in the acidic dialogue came in the form of offensively loud music, and intense physical routines which showcased the skill and promise of the young performers.

Congratulations must go to the lighting man for beautifully smooth changes, which corresponded exactly with the action onstage - there was certainly nothing amateurish to be detected.

All of the performers brought an unswerving energy to the piece, but it was Freddie Hall in particular whose bitter tones and extremely expressive body language drew the eye.

Particularly strong were the moments at which the cast came together as an ensemble, delivering lines as one, in a highly stylised and effective manner.

One slight complaint would be that the angry tone of the dialogue never really eased - the audience felt like they were being shouted at for almost the entire performance.

Overall, this was an imaginative and fascinating interpretation of “Pool (No Water)”, and Bell Jar Productions have much to be proud of.

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Xandra Burns

at 12:10 on 27th Aug 2011

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Pool (No Water) is art about art and how in-genuine, selfish, and shameful it can be. Performed and produced by a team of students from the University of Reading, everything about Pool (No Water) is professional.

The three actors, Freddie Hall, Livi North, and Dean Lamb deliver superb performances as individuals and as a team of three; their group interactions are crucial to the play’s structure and message, and they execute the challenge beautifully with direction from Emma Chapman. The integration of dance in both the choreographed sequences and in the overall grace and flow of the piece is ingenious and emotive. A combination of the actors’ deliberate movements, the powerful lighting design, three thoroughly utilized chairs, and a precise selection of pulsing songs transform an empty stage, creating striking shifts in setting and tone. The team so perfectly shapes the text that I am surprised to learn that it was written by playwright Mark Ravenhill rather than someone associated with this production.

Hall, North, and Lamb play three artists who witness their friend’s crippling accident and recovery. They see opportunity for art in every experience and event surrounding them, and, feeling slightly guilty, work at turning her tragedy into the masterpiece that can give their lives credibility.

At first details of the plot are confusing; some lines are inevitably lost due to the quick pace in which the actors interrupt and overlap each other - but in reflection it seems that the confusion is intended; it captures the intense buzz of artistic energy, flung directionless as they grasp for inspiration. The three characters admit that others’ suffering makes them “want to rush by and make some art.” The story becomes more clear as the artists focus on a single vision, becoming obsessed with their friend’s illness and how to capture it as art. The style of their performance is at times disconnected from how people actually talk, enforcing their ingenuine and contrived nature as artists.

These characters own up to the most shameful yet truthful of human emotions - the excitement of rushing their friend to the hospital, jealousy for people with pain as justified as AIDS and cancer, boosted confidence in themselves at the sight of their friend’s mangled face. Hall, North, and Lamb work as a single unit, with intense focus. While each of their characters has subtle identifying qualities, the three make up essentially one person, ironically unoriginal, the opposite of how artists are perceived.

Pool (No Water) is unsettlingly honest and perfectly executed, providing a dark perspective on the art surrounding us, especially in the revered world of theatre that is the Fringe.

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