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A CurtainUp London Review
The main difference between Filter and other contemporary experimental theatre companies is their strong narrative drive. Improvised theatre often concentrates on mood and effect but sometimes eschews or neglects classical story-telling. Not so Filter, who impressively combine innovative atmospherics with a powerful plot and involving characters.
Water follows two characters' journeys to Canada. First, the lonely, depression-prone Graham (Ferdy Roberts) goes to his father's funeral and meets his famous Canadian DJ half-brother. In parallel, there is Claire (Victoria Moseley), a political aide struggling to get legal commitments at a summit on climate change. As Claire's work pressure intensifies, so the relics of her relationship with ambitious cave-diver Joe (Oliver Dimsdale) disintegrates. Water is an unobtrusive, constant theme throughout their lives, from Graham's groundbreaking environmental scientist of a father, to Claire's political negotiations on climate change and Joe's determination to break the world record by plunging deeper into water than anyone else.
The production places these characters within a convincingly created sonic world, where even the tiniest of noises of each situation is reproduced. The range of scenes is breathtaking, including airports, squash games, radio broadcasts, press conferences and deep-water diving to name just a few. At times, impressionism takes over the realism and, at one point, frantic keyboard typing merges into a heavy downpour of rain. As the cast of three assume a variety of other parts, their range— not least in dialects— is impressive. There is no stylized disguise of the theatrical illusion, and in fact the mess of production is embraced. DJ decks, screens and cables are all left clearly on-show and sound designer Tim Phillips practices his sonic craft onstage. Andi Watson, perhaps best known for his work with Radiohead and Oasis, tackles the video design with technical wizardry and creative flair. Nevertheless, in spite of the sophistication, the effects never feel superfluous or ostentatious. Although beguiling, the production is carefully controlled and this self-discipline is truly remarkable in a company which is so artistically talented.
In this dual context of human stories and expert atmosphere, the play explores some interesting themes. In particular, it suggests that humans ought to act more like the sociable molecule water to save the world. This dialectic of individualistic brilliance versus community-minded altruism adds an extra dimension of intellectual meat to the production and, although not wholly followed through, gives enough of a stimulating edge to its distinctive ambiance. True to the Lyric Hammersmith's philosophy of bringing in new audiences and stretching theatre as an art form, David Farr's most recent collaboration proves to be yet another success.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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