The Water Rats
Reviewed – 30th July 2018
“a complex play that conjures up twists until the final moment”
Before a small theatre pub and music venue called The Water Rats came into being, there existed in its place a pub called The Pindar of Wakefield. In its time, it was visited by such luminaries as Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Bob Dylan. Unfortunately none of them were available on Monday to discuss love, life, and relationships – luckily, playwright Olugbeminiyi Bammodu was around to do it instead.
Bammodu’s play, which he wrote and directed, dissects the relationship between Melissa and Daniel, a couple who met at university. Their idealistic student days are long gone; their affection for one another has taken its leave, too. Melissa, now a successful lawyer, resents having to financially support her artist boyfriend: the romantic notion of him ‘waiting for inspiration’ has long gone sour. Daniel perceives this as a lack of support, diminishing his confidence even further. The various misunderstandings between the two create tension that is only exacerbated by the arrival of Daniel’s brother Jacob, who is intent on reawakening the family drama that Daniel has tried to forget.
Anyone expecting a simple domestic drama should reject this notion instantly. Clingfilm is a complex play that conjures up twists until the final moment. This is to both its credit and its detriment. On one hand, it keeps the audience invested in its characters, all of whom are given depth and intriguing histories. Conversely, it makes for a play that is a little overlong and, in places, melodramatic. Attempts to maintain the high stakes sometimes miss the mark and the revelations sometimes come too suddenly to be believable. Ultimately, Melissa and Daniel’s relationship comes second to the various tangents that are set up and rarely resolved. The set goes some way to compensate for this. A photo of the couple stands downstage centre: physically, at least, their relationship is always at the forefront. But this isn’t quite enough to avoid it being weighed down by extraneous melodrama.
Fortunately, a strong cast is on hand to bring the script to life and sustain some of its more ridiculous moments. Anna Thornley and Matt Rolls give the play a strong foundation as Melissa and Daniel, capturing the varied nature of their relationship with great sensitivity. Olivia Caw and Elliot O’Donnell provide excellent support as Melissa’s best friend Rachel and Daniel’s brother Jacob. Both, especially Caw, give scenes balance and bring warmth and plausibility that is sometimes missing from the dialogue. All have a flair for comedy and draw out the humorous elements in a way that does not feel forced or unnatural. Thornley is particularly good at this: her correction of Daniel’s grammar is a running joke that brings some welcome laughter during tense moments.
‘I should have chose her!’ – ‘Chosen, Daniel.’
Clingfilm promises an intimate look at a relationship from the inside. But as it progresses the play becomes overwhelmed by other elements which, though effective, relegate the audience to mere spectators of the chaos rather than accomplices in the drama.
Reviewed by Harriet Corke
Photography by Michael Lynch
The Water Rats until 1st August
part of The Camden Fringe Festival 2018