pool (no water)

Mark Ravenhill
Frantic Assembly
Lyric, Hammersmith
(2006)

Publicity image

pool (no water) is a fable about schadenfreude. It looks at a group of friends whose youthful ideals are directed toward impecunious worthiness and considers the damaging effect when one of them hits the big time.

While it is headlined as Mark Ravenhill's new piece and the text features some characteristic poetic speeches about young people on the edge of polite society, it is primarily a Frantic Assembly work with movement and dance adding immensely to a simple story.

At the start and end, there are reminders of the company's work in the early days, especially as Cait Davis is making a welcome return. These scenes feature loud, clubby music and energetic dance, especially the final hypnotic, strobe-lit portrayal of a chemically-soaring group bidding for a freedom that they will never achieve. This all takes place within Miriam Buether's harsh, white set that simply transforms into a swimming pool, a gallery and a hospital room.

Back to the beginning - which could have come from Wallace Shawn or Martin Crimp. Four failing artists remember the happy days before cancer and Aids diminished their circle, when they aspired to an unattainable perfection and cared deeply for society's losers.

The four narrating the story have similar outlooks and, rather than finding pleasure in the success of the Tracey Emin or Sarah Lucas of their generation, they sneer at her new life in somewhere like LA and its ubiquitous pool.

However, they are not above sampling the good life and recreating the good old days of intoxication and skinny dipping. Then, a dive into the drained pool of the title changes everything.

The nameless hostess enters an eight-week coma and her "friends" do everything for her, including using her home and dating her nurse. For their own edification, they also take photos of the vegetative "Sleeping Beauty" and these begin a power struggle that ends in fiery catharsis as truth defeats hypocrisy.

The actors, who have no character names, pair off in natures so that Mark Rice-Oxley and Leah Muller play needy types, one gay, the other a junkie, while Miss Davis and Keir Charles are stronger and more happy-go-lucky.

As ever with Scott James and Steven Hoggett directing, the choreography accompanied by Imogen Heap's lively, tuneful soundtrack is slick and complements an entertaining, if rather slight tale about the divisiveness of fame and the perils of pools.

pool (no water) may last less than 90 minutes but it should leave viewers satisfied by both a haunting story and great production values.

Allison Vale reviewed this production at the Drum, Plymouth

Reviewer: Philip Fisher