This meetup of friends and relatives in Flood happens as a result of someone known to the characters passing away, which dramaturgically allows for conversations taking place between people who would ordinarily cross the road to avoid speaking with. How refreshing it is for the title of a show to unpretentiously reflect what it’s about: a flood. Adam (Jon Tozzi) and Jess (Emily Céline Thomson) are clearing up after the basement of the family home has flooded. This being a theatre play, there are images and double meanings that the physical flood conjures up, symbolic as it is of thoughts, feelings and actions explained in the course of the narrative.
If the plot comprises a conventional theatrical journey, the punchlines often seem more suited to a television situation comedy than on a stage. That said, the unassuming audience at the performance I attended lapped a lot of the humour up, and occasionally the laughs proved educational. As the old adage puts it, people learn something new every day, and my new, rather random, fact for the day was the existence of the Poo-Pourri brand, a sort of deodorant for toilets. Yes, there’s symbolism here too, something about neutralising the smell of past mistakes. Possibly. Maybe.
It’s a bold move to portray London in a negative light in front of a London audience, but such blunt sentiments from Ben (Tom Hartwell) are quite understandable. Set far out from the capital (Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire comes to mind, but only because of the severe flooding there in 2007), the lifestyles of the characters who never left the local neighbourhood are starkly different to the hustle and bustle of the Big Smoke. For Laura (Molly McGeachin), however, moving out and moving on is simply what people do, both physically and psychologically.
Completing the set of on-stage characters is Michael (Nathan Coenen), earnest and doting on Laura to the point of irritation: a terse response brings the house down. Overall, a lot of skeletons in a lot of closets are exposed, and no character is unscathed – and not only because a flood doesn’t discriminate. As happens so often in dramatically intense productions, at the root of the problem seems to be a lack of communication, and assumptions made about others based on limited information.
The comic relief continues to permeate through proceedings, and helps to bring some perspective to the issues being raised. Not everything is tidily resolved by the curtain call, which was pleasing to see – and led to some ‘what do you think happened next?’ conversations afterwards. The salient point I take away from this intriguing drama is that waiting for the right time to divulge bad news (or indeed good news) is an exercise in futility – better to say it, and say it now, before it’s too late.
I would have liked a deeper exploration as to the ‘real’ reasons why important information was withheld. The cast is well directed, but the play seems a little rushed, and finishes rather abruptly: if I hadn’t known any better I would have thought the end was the interval. But there is scope, perhaps, for a sequel to this accessible and contemporary story.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Adam is drowning. His small village has flooded and his loved ones have all moved closer to the capital in search of something better.
Stranded on an island of nostalgia, whiskey bottle in hand, Adam is forced to confront his future when those closest to him return after the death of his mother. Upon their arrival, repressed truths and unsettling secrets are revealed.
Flood is a complex and humane portrayal of a group of friends struggling to define themselves beyond the confines of their small town. When the water keeps rising, how do you stay afloat?
“Yes, Adam, we left. That’s what people do, eventually. That’s what everyone does.”
Tristan Bates Theatre (1a Tower Street, London, WC2H 9NP)
31st July – 5th August at 7.45pm (Duration 1 hour)