Not quite a play, not quite an art installation – with each night spanning four hours of performance and exploration, you’re free to come and go as you please, taking away something new with every visit.
Though a mostly interpretive piece, Das Wasser presents a few striking themes over a number of stages – the key one being its namesake, water. There’s opportunity to see both water and human interaction with it as art – witness its use, its waste, or its power, nurturing new life (under starlight, no less). The reaction to each aspect of the work is unique to each viewer, reflective of the individual’s interaction with water as resource, necessity, or privilege. The SPIRAL Community Hub in West End provides ample space for discovery, and echoes from its history (as The Box) remain – though the stage has now been transformed into a scene reminiscent of Psycho, shower curtains and all, music from the neighbouring area is still heard throughout.
Certainly, there are theatrical aspects present but without the usual trappings of the stage, and no given plot other than that which the viewer derives. There are actors, and action, focusing on a crafted “plastic world” – two performers worldlessly fulfill a number of roles – lovers, siblings, children, greater celestial bodies, exerting force on the tides. Cords connect the characters to the plastic diaspora above, though the meaning behind the connection (umbilical or cannula?) is left undefined. The main performance is anchored by repetition of action – one character regularly making trips to collect water and refill the world the cast inhabit, his muddy footprints trailing through the greater workspace. Dirt and debris continues to fill the area and pollute the water itself; and as the pool fills, the two actors interact with each other, found props, and over time, the ebb and flow of the audience.
Functioning as a standalone art installation it would excel, but it’s a pity that tickets are required when you consider the limitations that are then imposed on the total available audience and attached capacity for discussion. Of course – this is based on what i’ve taken from the work. You’re only going to get out what you put in, but the crew from Ida Arts Collective are on hand and waste no time in getting you settled or walking you through the work on request. There’s an open invite to get amongst the action, swimwear and all, but whether this will help or hinder the piece remains to be seen – I saw no eager volunteers during my stay.
In a purely theatrical context, it’s difficult to review, but it comes down to a simple decision: if you want to be led by the hand, if you expressly desire a “theatre” experience, then this is probably not the work for you. But if you’re an art fan, avidly seeking out subtlety and nuance, or if you just want a night out with fun people, then what’s stopping you? By my count there’s still three nights left to explore, discover and grow.
Reviewed by Jason Lomas
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 21.