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Theatre Centre presents

The Day the Waters Came

 


Written by Lisa Evans

Directed by Natalie Wilson
                    

Cast: Amber Cameron, Darlene Charles, Shane Frater and Uriah Manning

 

Unicorn Theatre

 

5 – 9 October 2010

Then on Uk Tour unitl 27 Nov. 2010

 

 

THE IMPOSTERSary Couzens

A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

This is a powerful, essential piece of theatre performed by a troupe of young actors who are part of a company which seeks to dispel boundaries between what is suitable theatre for youths and adults, and If this production is anything to go on, they have very nearly achieved that goal with their touring production of The Day the Waters Came.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, breaking the levees of the Mississippi River, unprecedented levels of water quickly poured into the city flooding every section of it, apart from, in one of nature’s ironies – the French Quarter, that booze and music laden tourist mecca which is the only section of the city most tourists ever see. Although a category five hurricane was predicted and the mayor advised the city’s inhabitants to evacuate, many had heard such warnings before and managed to survive, as they’d proved to be false alarms as hurricanes tended not to be as severe as predicted. In the case of devastating Hurricane Katrina, however, many of the city’s poorer inhabitant’s very lives were endangered as they were engulfed by raging flood waters. What no one could have predicted, however, were the shameless levels of neglect and abuse leveled at the working class black populous of New Orleans, placed in desperate need by this disaster, who were treated with outright cruelty en masse by the U.S. government, then figure-headed by the infamous GW Bush, who had them herded into New Orleans roofless Superdome, where they were left for days with no water, food or protection. Lisa Evan’s vital play, drawn on real life situations and commentary by some of the victims of this senseless inequality sheds much needed light on the pain and suffering caused by these shocking displays of blatant racism by authorities who’d been voted in (albeit, by unscrupulous means in the first instance) to aid and protect all of their countrymen, aka citizens, equally, in the ‘richest country in the world.’

In terms of acting, the cast is first rate, so kudos to director Natalie Wilson. Once I got past the slightly off kilter American deep South accents of the two actresses in this four hander - Amber Cameron and Darlene Charles, it was easy to appreciate the warmth, versatility and fine timing of their performances, including their well observed body language. Many of the teens in the audience laughed out loud as Cameron and Charles enacted scenes in which they were meant to be teenage friends, and I did too, remembering when. Similarly, Uriah Manning, similarly, a recent, talented drama school graduate like Cameron and Charles, displayed diversity, sensitivity and when needed, great comic timing as he tackled roles spanning the seven ages of man, from child to crotchety old timer. However, regardless of the collective promise on show among the aforementioned, Shane Frater lead the way, displaying a depth and range that the younger, less experienced actors can so far, only hint at. Frater’s solidly performed role playing and ability to switch between pathos and humour was smoothly executed and we weren’t surprised to learn that he was part of the RSC’s ‘Complete Works’ Festival in 2006, having acted in no less than three of the Shakespearean plays in that series. There  is also a physical orchestration to this play, requiring that actors move more or less continually between spots, which is played out seamlessly.

Set design for this play, by Linbury Prize winner Jean Chan is simple, but effective and thanks to Natalie’s Wilson’s economic directing, extremely well utilised, with roof top doubling as a stoop, ladder as stairs etc. The black floors of the Unicorn aid the illusion of water, which has risen an incredible five feet in thirty minutes on which swollen corpses and poisonous snakes mutually drifted.

This is family theatre of the most inspiring kind, that which encourages mutual after-talk, so it’s not necessary to show us pseudo-corpses and other terrible sights to get the horror of seeing them across. Let’s hear it for imagination!
Dan Steele’s Sound Design is, for the most part, very effective, though for someone who put their TV out the door and changed the locks some years ago, sounds of atypical, rapid fire television between scene editing jars a little, though I realize younger viewers are more akin to such sounds and it’s vital that the messages this play contains reach them in a format they can quickly assimilate to, so they can get on with their thinking. However, a slight imperfection in the Sound Design occurred at the opening of the play when though atmospheric, the New Orleans trad jazz being played threatened to drown out the actors’ dialogue, a technicality easily remedied.

Despite the fact that Lisa Evans play is about a horrific subject matter, with all the unsettling revelations such things reveal, such as the fact that those who lost homes and family in Hurricane Katrina were in many cases, sent far away to live with strangers and families were left to find their own ways in others, branding them refugees in their own countries, the play is not without its rays of hope. This is never made more poignantly clear then when the actual audio recording made from the stadium full of abandoned people, starving and dying of thirst in a grossly over packed, filthy and dangerous environment sang, ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ (I’m Gonna Let It Shine) together. There’s no use saying, ‘I can imagine,’ because there is really no way we could. Yet Evans, Wilson and this dedicated cast help us to feel and, experience a modicum of the intense pain, suffering and grief of these down but, inspiringly, not out people felt, proving that the real victim of this terrible U.S. disaster was democracy.  

It’s commendable when theatre turns its attention to issues relevant to the youth of today, but it’s even better when plays like Lisa Evans The Day the Waters Came address timeless issues of universal humanity, and the human spirit in ways capable of touching everyone in the family, from teens through pensioners.

Lighting by Aideen Malone


LONDON LISTINGS INFORMATION:
5-9 October 2010
The Unicorn Theatre
147 Tooley Street
London SE1 2HZ

Booking: 020 7645 0560 or www.unicorntheatre.com (no booking fee)
Tickets prices: £10.50 / £8 / £7

5 October @ 7.15pm
6-7 October @ 1.45pm & 7.15pm
8 October @ 10.45am & 7.15pm
9 October @ 1.45pm
THE UNICORN THEATRE, London

19 October @ 7.45pm
THE HAWTH, Crawley

1-2 November @ 7pm
3 November @ 2pm & 7pm
BIRMINGHAM REPERTORY THEATRE, Birmingham

12 November @ 10am & 3.30pm
TAKE OFF FESTIVAL, Darlington

23 November @ 7.45pm
24 November @ 5pm & 7.45pm
25 November @ 1.30pm & 7.45pm
26 & 27 November @ 7.45pm
DRUM THEATRE, Plymouth

 

 

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