An Actor’s Review of pool (no water) | By: Cheryl Vandergraaf

Directed by Nancy McAlear, pool (no water) commands the audience’s attention from the first awkward movement piece performed by the cast of five and maintains this energy throughout the production. The twisting plotline, provocative music and lack of an intermission will demand rapt attention and keep your mind constantly engaged. Each actor is visibly absorbed by the life their character leads, embodying their stories with a dedication so rarely seen in young actors. The underlying themes are woven atop the narrative because playwrite Mark Ravenhill’s intention is, I believe, clarity – not cleverness.

The story follows six artist friends, five of which are ensnared by cocaine and heroin addictions, and one who has “made something of herself”. Grave misfortune befalls the latter, privileged artist and it is during her time of recovery from a concussed state that we discover the truth behind her friends’ cordial demeanours. What they call art is really success, what they call friendship is really jealousy, and what they deem appropriate is really quite uncomfortable for the audience to watch.

Despite a few awkward – and, in my opinion, unnecessary – moments, pool (no water) is exceptional, due in large to the actors’ commitment. Choreography and blocking are seamless to the point of perfection and high energy is maintained throughout the intermission-less play. The content in pool (no water) is deeply entrenched with historical material that we as an audience don’t fully understand until much later in the play, but reflecting on this fact reveals evidence of distinct character work from each actor, adding a great richness to the performance.

At the core of pool (no water), like any good piece of art, lies a deeper meaning. The dialogue with which the characters debate whether or not to document their friend’s healing process with a camera is, in itself, a mini moral lesson in determining: what is right, and what is wrong? Overall, the story conveys an honest interpretation of a sliver of human nature. In this case, it is the opposite of altruistic. The play addresses difficult topics and touchy subject matter: drug abuse, homosexuality, and the root of many problems: envy. McAlear’s actors worked with these themes with considerable skill, bringing deeper understanding to topics that are under discussed in society.

If you are looking for a play that is visually satisfying and mentally stimulating, pool (no water) will deliver that. With a talented cast and crew as well as a passionate director and unique script, it is certain your night out at the theatre will be, at the very least, thought-provoking.

pool (no water) will be playing at the Timms Centre for the Arts for the remainder of the week. All shows begin at 7:30 PM, with an added matinee on Thursday. For more information or to book tickets, the Timms Centre for the Arts contact info is as follows:

Box Office: 780.492.2495
Address: 3-146 Fine Arts Building

112 Street and 87 Ave
Edmonton, AB

Photo courtesy of Ed Ellis via the University of Alberta Drama Department