Unicorn Theatre production explores flaws and complexity of human relationships
Pool (No Water), Mark Ravenhill’s play recently put on by the Unicorn Theatre at the University of Ottawa, is about an artist who invites a group of her old friends from rehab to her extravagant home to see her new pool and in the wake of a recent friend, Sally’s, death. Although this story doesn’t seem like something many people, let alone students, can relate to, the themes explored in it, such as jealousy, vanity, and mania, are relatable to all audiences, as they are parts of our everyday lives—human flaws we all try so hard to suppress.
Directed by MFA candidate Pamela Feghali, the play tells the tale of four friends and their twisted experiences of insobriety and sabotage. The discourse surrounds the tribulations of the artist, whose beauty and talent causes both admiration and envy.
Throughout the play the audience is witness to personal explorations into the darkness of the human psyche, and the moral boundaries approached and challenged by the group. Humanity is often sacrificed for the sake of art and success, and though her friends are not all that successful, the artist is. After all, she has a pool.
The show began before audience members were even seated, as you were thrust into the black and trance-like demeanour of the performance as soon as you entered the theatre. The stage, designed by set designer Brian Smith, was constructed from exquisite asymmetrical lines, honing multiple angles and gradual levels for the actors to play onto.
The lighting, done by lighting director and theatre workshop supervisor at the U of O Paul Auclair, and new-wave noise created an uncomfortable, yet intriguing, ambience. In addition to the play’s stunning set were the four main actors, positioned carelessly, yet configured into a controlled tableau, immediately engaging the audience.
“What I loved about the set is that it extends right into the audience and is so in your face,” says Feghali. “It almost breaks that fourth wall between the audience and the actors on stage, and it really invites the audience into the story.”
The script was conveyed in a monologue style, divided between the four main actors, making the story more of something that was told, rather than something that took place. No direct conversation occurred, instead having the perspectives and narration of the characters delivered in alternating dialogue, their stories intertwining.
The actors themselves had a chemistry and intimacy that allowed the audience to fully comprehend the bond between the characters. Even without direct interaction, the audience was able to feel the connection between the characters through the flawless acting.
“(The play is) such a real story. It questions what we do as artists, the good and the bad—how we use people’s pain to make something beautiful out of it,” says Feghali.
With the symbolism and unique storytelling, expect the philosopher in you to arise after you are sucked into the introspective emotional journey of Pool (No Water).