One Year Lease Theatre Company brings back its staging of Mark Ravenhill's 2006 play, in which five struggling artists try to make the most of a successful friend's misfortune. In its 2012 incarnation, at least, Ianthe Demos's production could not find the right balance between gestural movement and emotional truth.—David Cote
[Note: The review below is from the show's 2012 run at 9th Space.]
Even the most vibrant fish will gasp and die when yanked out of its habitat and slapped on dry land, and so it is with Mark Ravenhill’s choral text for pool (no water). This story of five struggling-artist friends and one hugely successful colleague began as a collaboration between Ravenhill (Shopping and Fucking) and choreographer Steven Hoggett (Black Watch, Once) for the movement-theater troupe Frantic Assembly. When it premiered at Plymouth’s Drum Theatre in England in 2006, the piece was 80 minutes long and included expressionistic dances in a Miriam Buether–designed set that evoked both the bottom of a pool and a hospital room. Now pool (no water) clocks in at an hour, it’s Off-Off Broadway and, in this shoestring attempt, comes across as a Fringe Festival offering by college grads.
Director Ianthe Demos and her five earnest performers can’t strike a balance between the morality tale’s gestural possibilities and its emotional terrain. Worse, the company’s dance skills are hardly more polished than its acting. The base plot is conveyed clearly enough: A group of bitter artists visit their wealthy peer, she cracks open her skull while diving into a drained pool, and they make her gruesome recovery in the hospital a video project. With choreography credited to Natalie Lomonte and movement to Christopher Baker, the physical vocabulary ranges from ho-hum modern-dance lifts and spasms to blandly illustrative pedestrian poses. Ravenhill’s saucy script is sharp, vicious and witty (despite each plot twist being wildly incredible), but Demos can’t lead her actors into the brackish depths that would keep boredom submerged.—David Cote
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