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Water Falling Down

While the QLD Theatre Company have had a slightly rocky start to their 2011 season, with the disappointing Sacre Bleu! opening the year, there was a lot to like in their latest production, Water Falling Down by Mark Swivel. Certainly the deeper focus on emotions and relationships was more fertile ground for the company to explore, as opposed to French farce. Mark Swivel’s play draws upon his own real-life experiences with his own father, and it is this interesting personal connection that really provides the meat of the enjoyment for the audience. Although enjoyment really isn’t the right word to use here, simply because while we do get to explore what happens when an adult begins to lose their sense of self, it’s a tragic tale to watch unfold. But the performances and the writing are what really make this exploration of human feeling so damn engaging.

The script here is the strongest element to reflect on, given how relevant it apparently is to the life of author Mark Swivel. His personal experience of having his own father suffer from aphasia forms the core of the piece, and it’s this personal intimacy that gives the script its much needed depth of emotion. While it’s hard to say for sure just how accurate of reflective of Mark’s exact experiences the script itself is, it’s clear that the piece benefited from this immediacy. As the audience watches the journey that Dad and Son embark on, it’s clear that while the two start out emotionally distant, unable to reconcile their failed relationship, it’s the trip itself that brings the two together. That as Dad loses his ability to communicate, he gains a greater connection to his own Son. It’s this renewed connection that empowers Son to rekindle the flames with his own child right at the end.

The entire show hinges on just two actors, Ron Haddrick and Andrew Buchanan, to carry things, and it’s here that the show benefits greatly. Both actors have a natural rapport that allows them to really bring out the best in what the script has to offer, and really it comes down to their obvious ability to manipulate the tiny elements of a performance - be it a sideways glance or a simple vocal tick - to allow the subtext of the piece to really come out. Special mention must go to Ron for his obvious lack of self-consciousness, given that he spends several scenes near naked. It does take some guts to stand in front of 300-odd people with virtually no clothes on, so top marks to him for allowing such an intimate portrayal of a character that really was quite vulnerable for almost all of the show.

Overall, Water Falling Down isn’t exactly a cutting edge piece of theatre, but then not all theatre has to be. The Queensland Theatre Company can generally be relied upon to deliver the goods when it comes to mainstream popular theatre that has an emotional or comedic kick. In Water Falling Down, we get a simple production (ably assisted by some great use of Cinematic Theatre to realise the production design) that places the focus on two honest characters, both attempting to deal with the situation they have found themselves in after years of neglecting what should be an important relationship. We’ve all had times where we wished we could do things better by someone we care about, and in Water Falling Down Mark Swivel has given each of us a chance to see just what might be when we know the end is coming, and have one last chance to get things right before the end.

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