Monday, May 11, 2009

"Waterproof" - May 2009

This week's lunchtime offering at Oran Mor is Andy Duffy's "Waterproof" - a tale of two friends on a fishing trip. Ryan Fletcher's Alex is making the most of his new found freedom at university while Ali Craig's Gordon is still living with his parents and recovering from a painful break-up. Please be aware that my comments here give more plot detail than we normally do, so if you haven't seen the show yet you may want to think twice before reading on...

Duffy supplies Alex with some great lines but there are also several that fall flat, and after a while the character's cheeky persona crosses the threshold into irritation. Balancing this, Craig's Gordon is wonderfully deadpan and gives the impression that there is a whole lot going on below the surface. The banter between the two works well and gets (most of) the intended laughs but it comes at the expense of credibility. Yes, part of what's going on is clearly about friends drifting apart, but the 'banter' is at times so ferocious that there's little here to show a level of attachment - even one in the past.

The other problem with the banter is that it goes off at all sorts of tangents with anecdotes and mini-lectures that provide the laughs but do little to provide insight to the characters or advance the story. And I do mean all sorts of tangents - dead deer, linguistics, pederasty, an old bloke across the river, Thoreau's 'Walden', Byron, a visit to a prostitute, and instruments for stunning fish. Maybe Duffy is being very clever here and is intentionally playing with the audience, teasing us and making us think we know where this is headed - unrequited feelings of one for the other, blunt instrument introduced in Act one to be murder weapon in Act three, the suspicion of Alex having had a one-night stand with Gordon's ex Linda. But none of these are developed, and in fact nothing really happens at all - and the addition of a friend who never arrives leaves the whole thing feeling like a take on "Waiting for Godot".

Selma Dimitrijevic's direction keeps things pacy and ensures no side of the in-the-round setting feels neglected, but the use of a pop-up tent proves problematic for a period. It leaves the actors teetering around the edges of the raised stage - they seriously need either a smaller tent or a bigger stage before the inevitable happens.

Andy Duffy has created a pair of characters that certainly intrigue, and the performances bring them to life, but "Waterproof" feels like a chapter in the middle of a novel where the best bits have already been or are still to come. That said, while during the course of the play the muted laughter left me unsure how well it was being received, there was no doubting the very enthusiastic response at the end.

Waterproof runs at Oran Mor as part of A Play, A Pie & A Pint until Saturday 16th May.
Image by Leslie Black used with permission