DRAMA | Comedy | Musicals | Fringe | Archive | HOME

Theatreguide.London
www.theatreguide.london

 The Theatreguide.London Review



Wastwater
Royal Court Theatre    Spring 2011

Simon Stephens' play is actually three entirely separate stories, loosely connected by their all taking place somewhere near Heathrow Airport and by each including a passing mention of one of the characters from the others, suggesting that these people are vaguely related.

But that is just window dressing, and has the feel of being added to three independently-written scripts as an afterthought to justify playing them together.

What they do have in common is someone's discovery that an experience they thought they were prepared for is more emotionally complicated than they realised - but of course that's a loose enough definition to cover every drama since Oedipus.

So the evening doesn't really hang together, and the three pieces are best appreciated as independent thirty-minute plays.

In the first, a foster mother and her adult 'son' prepare for his departure, a separation that not surprisingly affects her more than it does the young man. It's a fragile, somewhat underwritten piece, but its quiet picture of a small person's small but real-to-her pain grows on you, helped by the sensitive performances of Tom Sturridge and particularly Linda Bassett.

The second play, about a couple meeting for a spot of adultery at an airport hotel, has some of the air of a Martin McDonagh black comedy of excess, as she feels the need to tell him progressively darker things about her past, almost but not quite scaring him off.  Though Jo McInnes has the flashier role, it is Paul Ready who carries the half-hour as the guy torn between the impulse to get the hell out of there and the realisation that her bizarre stories are turning him on.

The last piece is the least successful, as a man adopting a foreign child on the black market is gratuitously and sadistically tormented by one of the traffickers, just because she knows he needs her too much to resist. Aside from it's being an unpleasant process to watch, all the efforts of Angus Wright and Amanda Hale are unable to make the situation or either character believable.

Katie Mitchell's direction, most successful with the subtleties of the first playlet, is progressively less able to establish and sustain a sense of reality in the others.


Gerald Berkowitz

Return to Theatreguide.London home page.

Review - Wastwater - Royal Court 2011