Pool of Blood

Wed 8th – Sat 11th August 2012

reviews

April Elisabeth Pierce

at 09:50 on 10th Aug 2012

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With a promising intro, this show seemed set to thrill, but in the end the experience was cringeworthy. “Pool of Blood” started out inoffensive and took a turn for the worse. There was a pretty solid chorus, decent acting, and even a semi-realistic cadavre on stage. There was something like a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” cheekiness, and the narrator had wild, winsome expressions. What went wrong? In this case, only the writing can be blamed.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti once stated, in his book “Poetry as Insurgent Art” that poets should never write poems about the process of writing poetry. The same might be said of theatre (with the exception of the Muppets, perhaps). “Pool of Blood” is a show about making a show. Meta-narratives are a novice’s error. Comical movies about making movies and plays about making plays are only really funny to movie and theatre directors. The army of in-jokes employed failed to impress the audience, though the jugular jests were marched out, one after the next, in protracted tedium. Unfortunately, the plot didn’t help; complicated twists and “surprises” only made the spectacle more opaque. Yawns and winces were witnessed. Dance numbers were not followed by applause (though the dancing and singing itself was on target).

It went downhill. Lines were dropped. Heads were cymbal-crashed together. Inexplicably long episodes of “bad theatre” and “bad jokes” were followed by further episodes of “bad theatre” and “bad jokes.” Cheap laughs were sought but not received. Hope came in the form of an appallingly offensive french accent and an ostentatious dance number in the presence of a naked woman onstage. Even nudity could not save the audience from the horror they were witnessing.

At the end of the show, there was a plea for the audience to come back again the next night, so that all their questions would be answered. Injecting a “tell your friends” moment into the play itself was the final offence. While there were several actors who valiantly stood their ground -- Lewis Shears (Robert Moore) was noteworthy -- little could be done to save the act, aside from a complete rewrite of the script itself.

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Elizabeth O'Connor

at 10:04 on 10th Aug 2012

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Part 'Wise Children', part Addams Family, part memory play and part sinister cabaret, 'Pool of Blood' tells the story of a dying music hall with a macabre and bizarre subplot of body-snatching and the quest for eternal youth. Or at least I think that's what I saw. An original piece of writing hailing from and set in Liverpool, the main problem with 'Pool of Blood' is that for all its imagination, it is extremely convoluted, random and confusing. It is difficult to follow and therefore difficult to fully relate to and enjoy.

The show is clearly a labour of love, and as such gives a real immediacy to the notion of the music hall which represents a family to its lost performers. The cast possess an electric and lovable capacity to put all their energy and effort into their performances. Watching them work together and truly enjoy their roles is lovely, especially within the context of the Fringe, where such chemistry is often pushed aside in favour of stoic acting and pretentious scripts. There are moments of real talent; Rachel McLinn makes for a sweet and natural Lucy Woolton, and Sarah Setterfield's performance as Mrs. Henderson captures just the right level of flamboyance and fun. The music of the piece is also performed with gusto, and whilst it is not technically perfect (with the notable exceptions of Setterfield's and Grace Foulke's vocals), it is lively and fun, and I found myself absent-mindedly foot-tapping throughout.

It's a shame, then, that such a fun cast are left grappling with a weak script and story. Most of the jokes fall a little flat, and the characters tend to fall into types. The plot of the show is so complicated and nonsensical that a narrator has to come on after every other scene and deliver a monologue stating what on earth just happened. Nothing is explained until the final scene of the play, which I assume is supposed to make for a nice twist, but actually just makes the preceding hour spent trying to make sense of everything a complete waste of time.

For all the problems with the script, the cast do a truly sterling job, and manage to shine through it. I would love to see them perform a different play, but unfortunately 'Pool of Blood' just doesn't quite do them justice.

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