Between 10 and 20 years ago, “physical theatre” became a new British genre. What does it include?
Supported gesture by the truckload; people flinging themselves at the walls and bouncing back off; dance with no footwork whatsoever and limited use of the spine.
And a lorra lorra expressionism: ie the emphatic repetition of gestures.
On occasions it has been radical, riveting. I had never seen Frantic Assembly, but when I read that the playwright Mark Ravenhill had described them as “cutting-edge”, I had hopes.
Pool (no water) is Ravenhill’s collaboration with them, but, if this is anything to go by, Frantic Assembly couldn’t cut butter.
The movement is wall-to-wall cliché (the flinging of themselves, the Geddit repetition of gestures, the tepid use of the spine) with no evidence that anybody involved has any particular physical skill.
Pool (no water) is about jealousy, specifically about the jealousy of four minor/bad/derivative artists of their successful contemporary.
She invites them to spend time with her in her new pool, but when she’s critically injured in an accident it releases, first, their waves of Schadenfreude, then their notion of turning her bedbound state into art, and, finally, as she recovers, they need to vandalise her work.
Ravenhill’s gift for waspish social satire keeps surfacing, but his method here is schematic, charting the stages of jealousy like clockwork.
He writes for these four nogoodniks as a four-part chorus line watching the star: they never disagree or express separate thoughts at the same time.
Their “we”/“she” way of talking recalls nothing so much as the old Beatles song “She’s Leaving Home (we gave her most of our lives)”.
And he condemns us to spend 80 minutes (it feels longer) with people he knows are creeps and failures.
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