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Review of The Incident Pit at the Tristan Bates Theatre

The Incident PitYou know those Hollywood war movies that start off with a large battalion but through deaths and injuries on the battlefield, whether by land, sea or air, eventually whittles down to a community the size of a boyband? The Incident Pit, whose title derives from a colloquial name given to a stretch of deep water that certain people like to dive into, goes even further – although there’s only two of them to begin with – Martin (Carl Wharton) and Fiona (Miranda Benjamin). ‘Rob’ is an off-stage character, having already passed away: for Fiona, Rob’s death was wholly unnecessary, caused by an exploration that didn’t really need to take place.

Typing the word ‘quarry’ into a search engine brings up an entry on geology.com called ‘Abandoned Mine & Quarry Accidents Claim Several Lives Per Year’. The article proper is straightforward enough: “Don’t swim in a quarry. The water can be dangerously cold, there are no lifeguards, no rescue equipment, and it is simply not safe.” Martin, however, has deep diving equipment, and takes the plunge (so to speak) anyway, in a bid to get to the bottom of the disused quarry to see what’s there, because it hasn’t yet been discovered by anyone else.

It wasn’t clear to me whether he was gunning for a Guinness World Record or indeed any kind of personal glory – he calls a press conference, which may be considered a rather vain thing to do in itself, but the content of his remarks suggests his planned expedition is merely a manifestation of a deeply held desire to find out what is down there. It’s rather sad, in my humble opinion, that that’s his ambition, but it seems to me that the play is using a frankly slightly absurd aspiration in order for the audience to consider the consequences as they are played out, and think about the potential outcomes for the pursuit of any particular goal or dream at any cost.

Slightly too long is spent with Martin justifying himself, and Fiona trying to get him to see sense – after all, insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting a different result (to slightly misquote words rightly or wrongly attributed to Albert Einstein), and the conversation descends into the equivalent of a television debate between an arch-socialist and an arch-capitalist – the pair were never going to see eye to eye. There is, I hasten to add, a late plot twist that does change this. That said, it is still the case that their talking does not in itself result in a change of heart from either party – instead, the diametrically opposed positions become even more entrenched.

The lighting is good, helping to differentiate between scene locations, and the sound effects are at the right level, never intrusive or irritating. Some superfluity in the script might have been cut by a more ruthless director – the two landline telephones on stage are used only once in the show, both at the same time, and with content that is passive-aggressively amusing but only very sparingly referred to again later on in proceedings. Fiona indulges in therapy of some sort, dispensed by a man (also Wharton) whose accent I couldn’t place for the life of me.

Direct addresses to the audience help maintain engagement with the production, and while it has the potential to be a tight and thoughtful study into the behavioural patterns of those who relish reckless conduct, as it stands the effect is uneven overall. The actors do well, however, and the play does not, thankfully, take too much of an evening to tell its story.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

The deepest part of the flooded old quarry has never been reached, and so the obsession to conquer it is fathomless. But with so many lives expended trying, is it bravery or sheer madness to try? Despite Fiona’s objections, Martin still wants to go, even if this means diving on his own. But what really lies at the bottom of the incident pit?

CAST
Martin – Carl Wharton
Fiona – Miranda Benjamin

CREATIVE
Written, Directed & Produced by Chris Leicester

At the Tristan Bates Theatre on Saturday 27th July 2019 at 7.30pm, and then goes on tour at the Storyhouse, Chester, Square Chapel for the Arts, Halifax and the Kings Arms, Salford.

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