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WATER PARTY by Mimi Collins at the Union Theatre

I suppose there must be, in the selection process of Bespoke Plays, this series of ‘staged readings’ – a bit more than a mere read-through, but not a fully staged production – some thought given to the kind of plays that could be performed in the form of a staged reading in the first place. Not that Water Party wouldn’t require a substantial set if it went to a full production: it very much would, as the various stage directions and descriptions given by Ash (Rui Maria Pêgo) demonstrated.

WATER PARTY by Mimi CollinsIt’s not the easiest of narratives to follow, because, in this futuristic scenario, how the mid-twenty-first century world overcame various issues such as a world food crisis, population growth, climate change and so on, to continue not only functioning but thriving in a highly automated global village, is not made clear until quite late in the play. This helps to maintain interest, if only because, without being fully aware of the storyline’s context, it’s difficult to fully get one’s head around why certain characters are getting so uptight and edgy.

There’s a lot of obsession over water supply, not because it is scarce, but rather because tap water has chemicals in it that, somehow or other, are a completely effective contraceptive. This method of ‘universal birth control’ can only be overcome by making an application to something called The Bureau, and if they deem a couple worthy of having a child, they have non-contraceptive water delivered to them for a year. It is, of course, very easy to have plenty of questions about this, but in this dystopia, or indeed utopia, dependent on one’s viewpoint, in which only a minority of people are deemed to be the crème de la crème of society, it is a foolproof and failproof system.

Except, this being a gritty and intriguing play with various plot twists (some more predictable than others), it isn’t necessarily completely failproof. A ‘water party’, held to celebrate Daniel (Jay Faisca) and Celeste’s (Eva-Marie Kung) successful Bureau application, sees them invite their friends Ray (Jake Solari) and Layla (Analiese Emerson), and Charlie (Nathan Adams Stark) and Mara (Madeleine Herd) – but almost everyone has something they have either withheld from the others or otherwise blatantly lied about, and none of them are particularly likeable.

Despite the unusual setting, the play spends much of its time taking a well-trodden path, in which a gathering of people who, it would appear, haven’t seen each other for some time, results in all sorts of hidden truths being revealed. But this isn’t one of those stories where, despite some strong words being exchanged, there’s a reconciliation and a saccharine ending to go with it. The amount of control government agencies have over every aspect of daily living in this imagined future world is staggering.

With the benefit of some movement and blocking, the play comes to life as much as it can without props, set or costumes. Elements of dark humour permeate the dialogue, ensuring it isn’t all anger and agony. The show’s ending is very conclusive – how refreshing not to end on a cliffhanger! – and isn’t a minute longer than it needs to be. Even a moment of awkward silence didn’t feel too long. It only leaves me to recommend the Bespoke Plays staged readings: if anything, it’s a different way to experience new writing.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Set in the not too distant future, a population boom and resource crisis have resulted in the placement of birth control in the water supply. If you want to have a baby, you and your partner undergo a rigorous application process. All applications are processed by an algorithm, run by The Bureau.

When a couple is approved, they receive a year’s supply of clean water. It is customary to throw a Water Party to celebrate. This is the story of one such party.

Analiese Emerson
Jay Faisca
Madeleine Herd
Eva-Marie Kung
Jake Solari
Nathan Adams Stark
Rui Maria Pego

25 January 2024

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