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Alexander Huetson

Review: DARK IN THE WATER at the White Bear, Kennington

Dark in the Water Upon entering the White Bear Pub I'm struck by the beauty of the pub's interior – more like an airy time capsule to a former golden age.

Upstairs the stage is small, with a simple panel fenced backdrop, a table, a phone and a radio. All essential plot devices as we later find out. 2 actors wait to spring into action, with an eery framed picture behind them, alluding to a nightmare.

As we kick off, we struggle as much as the characters to find out why they're there. What connects them? Where is there? The setting suggests a period piece – but the semantics the characters use relocate us to a modern time. So we quickly hang on to their every word on a quest of discovery.

If you are looking for a narrative – you'll be hard pressed to find one. Instead Allix James (the writer/director) has plopped 4 characters into a cabin, deprived them of their short term memory – and thus their existence - and given them to an audience. The nightmare of losing your identity, defined by your memories is compounded by the marshalling presence of a ghostly figure played by the impressive Cameron Harris. Lacking emotion, even his distinguished face is void of definition. Allix uses scare tactics to make us think; who are we and exactly what are we if not just a memory? When memories distort the moment exponentially as more time passes, what exactly is life if we don't make every effort to live forthrightly IN THE MOMENT.

The action is over quickly – 45 minutes breezes by. At times, when the characters are trying to remember the experiences which connect them, there is a little too much exposition in the dialogue and it feels like a novel rather than a living-breathing recollection – but the actors fully commit to their circumstances and the results are at times truly breathtaking. One gem of a performance came from Hannah Baxter-Eve, her movement – or rather her stillness was eye-catching, you could see the action affecting her but it was all kept inside, a skill all of us actors strive for. Her energy in performance will take her far and I look forward to seeing more of her work.

At £12 you're in for a treat. Just outside of central London, easily accessible via the Northern Line and over by 8pm. Even during the warm evenings there's time to enjoy a comfy air conditioned theatre experience AND enjoy the warm air in beautiful surroundings. If you want inspiration, this affecting piece of drama is worth a shout, running until Saturday 4th August with a 7:15pm start.