Left - (l-r) David Whiteley, Dion Mills, Jessamy Dyer, Melissa Chambers. Cover - (l-r) Dion Mills, Jessamy Dyer, Melissa Chambers, David Whiteley. Photos - Jodie Hutchinson
When Sally dove into the pool there should have been a splash, but instead the group heard a crack. In Mark Ravenhill’s Pool (No Water) this accident provides the subject for a controversial and potentially brilliant work of art, one which is motivated by the jealousy that comes in the wake of a friend’s success and the prospect of the personal success that has alluded them throughout their life. This particular production by Red Stitch, directed by Simon Stone, runs for just one hour on a unique and brutally honest energy. In the midst of their toiling over compositions, lighting and form, the characters discover that in art and life, there is much to be said for the sheer naked truth.
The individuals in this group of artists, played by Dion Mills and David Whiteley, both part of the Red Stitch ensemble and guest actors Melissa Chambers and Jessamy Dyer, go unnamed and an insight into their individual personalities is subtle. Very rarely do the performers interact with each other. Instead they perform a series of monologues, often overlapping. Each of them delivers their measured speeches, ramblings of the mind, squeals of delight and wails of terror. It is not an easy task, requiring frequent change of pace and energy levels but all succeed, as individuals, and as a group. The overall effect is their formation of a single, powerful, character.
In times past this group included Sally, the subject of their artwork, and she intermittently appears, played by Melissa Chambers. Her studio was their studio – together they indulged in art, drugs, sex and alcohol. It is these times that the group remember fondly and revisit when the opportunity arises. Sally is now a successful artist while the remaining four friends lead what they have termed small lives.
On a visit to Sally’s property the group discover the swimming pool which represents everything they feel Sally has and they do not: wealth, personal success, and an escape from the harsh city. Despite this, it becomes increasingly obvious that the group feel trapped, not by their city confines, or society’s expectations, but by their own works of art. Skinny-dipping in the pool provides a moment of recklessness and naturalness, until it provides them with their next work of art.
Peter Mumford’s set is a reminder of how this all began. A floor to ceiling triangle of black tiles creates the giant empty swimming pool and the sterile and artificial environment of the hospital in which Sally is confined. There is great physicality from the cast as they push against the walls, resisting their confined space and Danny Pettingill’s fluorescent lighting and the obtrusive music by Xana Chambers enhance the sense of artificiality.
Ravenhill’s themes are disturbing and their delivery often crude. In this play, the frequent and repetitive use of some of the more course language is discomforting and detracts from a production that creates sufficient energy and mood without. However, within them there is a great deal of truth and humour.
In Pool (No Water) the most significant of these themes is his questioning of the nature and value of art and the fine line between life as art and exploitation. For the group and Sally it is not their artwork, which they have composed, catalogued and exhibited, that provides them with a lasting sense of success or happiness. Their own feelings of spite and hatred remain. It is only with the discovery of truth that this begins, and it is the capturing of a moment in life based on love rather than for the sake of art, which brings the most pleasure.
Pool (No Water)
by Mark Ravenhill
Where: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda East (opp Astor)
When: Fri June 13 – Sat July 5. Wed – Sat 8pm, Sun 6.30pm. $18 previews Wed 11 and Thurs 12 June
Bookings: www.redstitch.net (discounted tix) or on 03 9533 8083 @ $30/20