Water as a substance is hard to grasp. As a liquid you can store it in containers, but to physically try to hold it within your hands is problematic. The water begins to trickle between the gaps in your fingers, and even the smallest of droplets will eventually fall to the ground. Water by Filter Theatre is much like the inability to hold onto something you ultimately want – and in each of the stories portrayed, water as a liquid is the returning metaphor.
Water has been classed as ‘climate change’ theatre, which seems to be a common theme for practitioners to be exploring at the moment. Yet for Filter, the message of climate change is not really where the heart of this performance lies. Instead, the characters which Water is framed by become the central device.
There is Peter Johnson, a professor of marine biology, whose political views on climate change and the world at large leave him balancing between an academic job in Vancouver and flying back to England. After Johnson’s death, his two sons (Oliver Dimsdale and Ferdy Roberts) are left to forge a relationship as half-brothers, dividing the wealth and scattering Johnson’s remains into the sea that he so cared about. In a different story we see Claudia Ford (Victoria Moseley) attempting to join world diplomats in an agreed environmental pact. Ford’s fiery relationship with a deep-sea diver, coupled with her demanding job leave her floating just above the water of sanity.
Whilst I would have liked a more punchier climate change message (and I was half expecting to receive one), there is some joy in not receiving one directly but instead allowing a sense of osmosis of the characters’ situations and dilemmas to feed into the conscious mind. Filter’s technological workings leave Water as much a treat for the ears as it is for the eyes. Tim Phillips, as musician and composer for the piece, creates a truly breathtaking audio atmosphere throughout. Using microphones, looping pedals, and an array of electronic sounds sampled live on stage, Phillips creates a sensational backdrop of music, sound effects and allows for the action to be easily placed and enjoyed.
David Farr’s direction of the piece sees a fast pace, and constantly evolving settings, atmospheres and reinvention of the stage. Technology is placed at the heart of the piece, allowing video conversations, telephone calls, and projected videos/images to be integrated into the performance fluidly and adventurously. Dimsdale, Roberts and Moseley effortlessly slide between characters and situations. Like the technology used, the characters are fluid around the Tricycle’s small stage.
As a piece of theatre, Water is enchanting, and a joy visually and aurally. There are some niggling faults with the show – a sense that the characters interplay with each other is a dramatic device, which doesn’t always work for me. I would have liked to have seen the bigger picture of climate change introduced more, instead of an osmosis affect. Ultimately I felt as if I had seen the production before, and felt comfortable watching it, instead of truly engaging with the technology and presentation of the piece. For me, Filter needs to just add a slight edge of dramatic tension to really engage its audience. However, the parting image of a sea projected onto a screen with balloon fishes floating in the background was truly beautiful and left my eyes wide open.
Water is playing at the Tricycle Theatre until 5 March. Tickets can be brought through the website here.