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Filter and Lyric Hammersmith present

Water


Created by Filter & David Farr

Tricycle Theatre


1 February - 5 March 2011



 

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A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Marine Scientist (Ferdy Roberts) opens this physical theatre performance by addressing the audience with an apocalyptic warning about the consequences of global warming: 'We must ration our energy consumption... Uniquely in human history, man's own brilliance will not help us... that brilliance has become our enemy. We must be made to limit ourselves... The waters are already rising.' Later, the same character sells out on his principles for a job in Vancouver, agreeing to tone it down for the university, but not before he makes it clear that he believes that a cap should be put on the birth rate, China style, across the planet. Set aside my own distaste at these Malthusian, anti-human politics and the irritation I felt with a programme including suggestions for further reading under the headings 'Climate Change', 'Carbon Offsetting' and 'Gaia Hypothesis', I was immediately struck by the contradiction between a super high-tech production based around a stage full of gizmos and gadgets, computer conversations taking place across continents and swish screens that rolled back and forth without a whisper and the profound pessimism of the central theme that 'man's own brilliance will not help us'. On the contrary, human history demonstrates that this brilliance has met the challenge of solving problems in the past and would continue to do so, if it were not for this all pervasive idea of limits holding back potential development.

The scientist, Peter Johnson, has two sons charged with scattering his ashes into the ocean after his death. Graham, also played by Ferdy Roberts, is a depressed Environmental Officer from Norfolk shocked to discover his father sold out on his Green principles. Chris (Oliver Dimsdale) his Canadian half-brother is a DJ who argues for the hedonistic lifestyle his father adopted instead. Parallel to this storyline we see another relationship played out between Claudia (Victoria Mosely) an ambitious negotiator for the coalition government, arguing for an agreement at a summit on climate change and Phil, the boyfriend she jilted before she discovered she was pregnant, again played by Oliver Dimsdale. The rather unscientific thesis, laid out by Peter in his opening lecture, is that water has sociable molecules which attract each other and unless we can do the same, linking up to care about each other, then we will all drown in the rising seas caused by our own profligate consumption. Claudia fails to connect with Phil in spite, or perhaps because of all the technology and he dashes off to Mexico to dive 1,500 feet down a fresh water cave in an attempt to break a world record. Before he dives, he makes a speech to the press about how people have always pushed boundaries and we'd all still be in horse drawn carts if this wasn't so , but he never comes back so the gloomy message is that Gaia punishes the hubris of men who attempt to conquer Nature.

On stage with the performers, in full view and communicating with the actors throughout was Tim Phillips, a musician synchronising sound effects and mixing video live, as much a member of the cast as the other three actors who also dashed around using simple props like a wine glass to produce a variety of sound as well as utilising the more sophisticated technology to equally good effect. It was an engaging and professional performance by committed actors, greatly appreciated by an audience who loved the inventive interface between human speech and movement and the computer technology many of us work with day to day but the characters did not come to life, existing merely as plot functions and machine appendages. Although I welcome experimental and political theatre, particularly when it is done this well, I found it to be a deeply anti-human production in form and content. Why should people join together around such a negative idea of themselves? For the majority at the Tricycle, the pessimistic message that we must limit and even somehow reverse human development was uncontroversial, which says much about the contemporary view on what we, as a society, can achieve.

 

 

 

 

Tricycle Theatre
312 Kilburn High Road London NW6 2DG


Tickets: £12 Mon 8pm, Midweek Mats, £18 Tues – Friday 8pm, Sat 4pm, £22 Sat 8pm

Box Office: 020 7328 1000


www.tricycle.co.uk

 

 

 

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