Review: Cold Water, Pitlochry Festival Theatre
3.0Overall Score

We all know that feeling. Frustration. The crippling and necessary desire to run away and escape our day to day lives, to feel alive in the most extreme way possible. Perhaps that feeling has occurred more frequently recently; that’s a pandemic for you. We can definitely all identify with the character in this piece, and indulge in an escape.

Cold Water, written by Oliver Emanuel and directed by Elizabeth Newman is the latest digital short to stream as part of the Shades of Tay project. For those unfamiliar with the project, Pitlochry Festival Theatre (PFT) has commissioned more than 20 new pieces of writing from playwrights and poets to produce work over a four-month period, as a creative love letter to Scotland.

In Cold Water, a woman takes leave from her life and ventures out for a swim, to revitalise in the freezing cold Scottish water. This visceral experience unlocks her freedom and memories of an inspiring woman as she reconnects with nature, and herself.

There is the shape of a woman lying among bubbles with the words 'One, two, three. I leave my world to enter another' written around her.
An illustration by writer Mirren Wilson, inspired by Cold Water.

Kirsty Stuart powers through this monologue at a slightly unnatural speed, to the point where it seems rushed and the thoughts don’t quite have the chance to land. However, this delivery style successfully creates an anxious feeling in the viewer, perhaps mirroring the character’s inner turmoil. Although we start in a place of emotional darkness, we don’t really get the light relief that we hope for at the end. Even as the woman reflects in the water, and the text suggests that she finds this to be a happy place, the piece becomes emotionally flat and we don’t get the sense of indulgence that we crave.

Emanuel’s script is full of unfinished thoughts and half-sentences, but the links between sections feel very unnatural and a little clunky. In saying that, the sense of story is strong, the text is detailed in imagery and there are some really nice reflective moments. For example, the woman becomes lost in the woods, but this could also be symbolic of the fact that she’s lost in life. Another character features greatly in this story — the woman who inspires our key character. This woman is treated with respect, but also a certain vagueness, so that you can place your own connotations on to their relationship. It’s a lovely touch.

What’s also clever about this piece, is the way in which the journey of the cinematography reflects the journey within the text. We begin in a more urban, greyish location with erratic camera movements, which also connects to the chaos inside the woman’s own head. As we move towards nature, there’s more slow sweeping shots of trees and expanses of water where the images become brighter and more colourful. Russell Beard has captured some wonderfully entrancing shots of bubbling water and we, as the viewer, feel just below the water’s surface, but fully at peace.

Although Cold Water comes across as a little emotionally cold, the ideas within the text are reflective and it still plays into the viewers natural desires and urges of escaping into Scottish wilderness.

Cold Water is now streaming on YouTube. To watch, visit the Pitlochry Festival Theatre YouTube Channel and for more information, visit the Pitlochry Festival Theatre website.