Pool (No Water) is a “haunting and darkly amusing tale” on the Toronto stage
Pool (No Water) is perhaps the type of story that speaks to me most deeply. It seduces, cleverly—almost covertly—draws you in and then, once you feel safe and invested, demands your complicity in thoughts, feelings and actions that are, on the surface, deeply repugnant. At the Citadel Theatre, Cue6 is offering a very special gift to the Toronto theatre scene: their vibrant and compelling production of Mark Ravenhill’s fascinating play.
We have here a group of…we’ll call them “friends.” Each of them is an artist and they create together in a gritty, bohemian commune, surrounded by pain and disease. When the play opens, one of them has become successful and has left the group to lead a lavish lifestyle away from her roots. The friends show their half-hearted, socially-expected “support” for her and she, in turn, patronizes their indie artistic endeavours. Underneath all this, resentment festers.
She invites them to visit her and during a wild, drunken night of reconnection, something awful happens. In response to this jarring and gruesome event, a dark plan forms in their minds. Or, perhaps more accurately, within their mind (singular). These people—obsessive, creative co-conspirators—experience their thoughts and emotions en masse. Even if the spark of an idea forms in one individual, it quickly spreads like a virus through the group.
The show has so many elements that could—and, in my experience, often do—reek of pretension and indulgence: free text not tethered to any particular character, stylized movement, etc. But nothing here seems arty or affected, or designed to embellish or obscure. Whenever anyone moves or speaks, it adds to an ever-evolving sense of place and gives us insights into these people and their individual and collective experience.
Director Jill Harper and choreographer Patricia Allison have achieved a perfect balance here between style and verisimilitude. The actors finish each other sentences and move together in harmony. They are a hive mind existing in opposition to the person—this deserter—that the collective has identified as other. And yet, there are brief, vivid glimpses of individuals. We are shown how people with unique personalities can blend seamlessly into a larger, amorphous force of will and intention.
The ensemble cast (Allison Price, Chy Ryan Spain, Daniel Roberts, Eva Barrie and Nickeshia Garrick) is uniformly excellent. While each sound and movement here has been meticulously crafted, they manage to make it feel spontaneous and buoyant. It’s satisfying to see all of the elements of theatrical presentation come together so damn perfectly and feel simultaneously like life and about life.
There isn’t a wasted word or gesture here. The text is full of heady ideas. As a whole, I love how it examines the self-service and duplicity that can exist within the phenomenon of artistic endeavour. It’s discomfiting, but ultimately rewarding, to find myself identifying with characters that are abject and undeniably human.
I saw so much of myself reflected in this haunting and darkly amusing tale. I’m still unpacking it; perhaps I’ll never stop. Even if you don’t find it as personally relevant and resonant as I did, you’ll be awe-struck by the masterful execution.
- Pool [No Water] plays until October 15, 2017 at The Citadel (304 Parliament St.)
- Shows run Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm, Sunday October 1 at 8pm and Sunday October 8 & 15 at 4pm.
- Tickets are $22 to $35
- Tickets can be purchased online or by phone 1-800-838-3006
Photo of Eva Barrie, Nickeshia Garrick, Allison Price, Chy Ryan Spain and Daniel Roberts by Samantha Hurley