Far Away From The Watering Hole
ADC Theatre, 11pm, until Sat 10 Nov
Upon entering the theatre, the audience was immediately set upon by a group of terrifyingly enthusiastic children’s TV characters, giggling and dancing and asking if we’d like to colour in or draw a picture. They said it would be put up on the wall, unless it was really bad. I drew a picture of a happy man standing on a happy cat. It wasn’t put up on the wall. I was sad.
Far Away from the Watering Hole is a piece of fantastically daring new writing from Sian Docksey, thrusting us into a bizarro kids’ TV program where every actor is as tragically – yet hilariously – broken as the next.
Tammy Alligator (Rosie Brown), who has a serious substance abuse problem and is not just two sandwiches short of a picnic, but appears to be lacking the picnic in its entirety, bounces beautifully off of Debbie Prebble (Ellie Nunn), a neurotic and insecure presenter who only got the job because her dad’s the producer. Juliet Griffin as Penny Savagely creates a deliciously dislikeable auditor-cum-producer, stalking across the stage accompanied by high heels and clipboard, ceaselessly hounding poor Rufus (Simon Alcock), the producer in the middle of a nervous breakdown. The sum total of all of these deeply flawed personalities is a show which succeeds in simultaneously unsettling and entertaining, in almost equal measures.
The play walks an incredibly fine line between the darkly humorous and the vaguely offensive. Whilst it does so for the majority of the time with consummate skill, there is one moment towards the end of the play when the depictions of mentally ill characters begin to slide away from the fairly subtle and nuanced displays which we had been treated to through much of the show towards jittery, ham-handed caricatures. Whilst no doubt intended to satirise the trend in the mainstream media towards insensitive, voyeuristic portrayals of people with serious issues, this one tiny part of the play lacked the same sense of self-awareness that the rest of the show possessed, causing it to come off as slightly crass and ill-executed.
Aside from that and a few minor light and sound issues, however, there are few faults to be found with this production. There was not a weak performance in sight, and a couple of stand-outs worth mentioning include Georgia Ingles as Hannah, a hand-wringing psychiatric patient with an unspecified problem who is portrayed with just the right balance of delicacy and humour, and Adam Kirton as Ewan, the terminally soft and pathetic bleeding heart counsellor, who is again comical but still somehow touching in his own way.
‘Edgy’ new writing is a dime a dozen. However, it is quite rare to find a piece as fresh, sharp and modern as this. A slick, thoroughly enjoyable and unsettling experience, it would genuinely be a shame to miss it.