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Black Swan State Theatre Company presents “Water”, an absorbing new play by internationally renowned playwright Jane Bodie; and directed by multi-award winning WA director Emily McLean. “Water” was commissioned by Artistic Director, Clare Watson, and has proven to be a very fruitful project for female artists and creatives.

Act One is set in Australia in the “not too distant future” at the holiday home of a family who come together to celebrate the birthday of the once powerful political figurePeter. A virtually unrecognisable, nationally known actor,Igor Sas, skilfully portrays the newly retired statesman as a man who seems lost without a purpose; a shell of a man whose past decisions have caught up to him. 

Likewise, well-known actor and Head of Acting at WAAPA, Glenda Linscott as Peter’s wife, Beth, gives a powerful, nuanced performance. Linscott captures the quiet, inner terror of a woman who can feel the certainty and security of her life slipping away. Linscott beautifully modulates her performance to reveal a complex character, full of contradictions, expressing the strength and fragility with outbursts of anger, fear and gibes in equal measure. It is a joy to observe Sas and Linscott embody their roles.

Equally impressive is Amy Mathews as Gemma who exemplifies the uptight lawyer with a chip on her shoulder;and Emily Rose Brennan is at ease as the free-spirited yet fiercely determined Joey, who has brought along a surprise guest to stir the political pot. Though, her move backfires as we learn that Yize, played by Richard Maganga (who makes some interesting choices), is a victim of asylum seeker policies that Peter has championed. Brennan and Maganga make remarkable debuts at Black Swan and I look forward to seeing them in future productions.

Costume design by Fiona Bruce complements the characters well, and the set design, also by Bruce, allows the action of Acts Two and Three to occur seamlessly as we move back in time to Ellis Island in 1921, then Queensland 1905 respectively. Bodie’s script depicts the three eras to explore stories of migration and reveal the repetition of indifference and persecution of the most vulnerable people. However, I felt that Act Three needed to be grounded in time and place quicker and could have been up to ten minutes longer to expand on the relationship between Josephine and Andrew.

Lucy Birkinshaw’s lighting design and Clint Bracknell’s sound design and compositions strikingly highlight thecontrasting eras and locations.

Plays about migration are difficult to navigate due to the complexities of the issue, however, McLean’s intelligent and sensitive direction grounds the play in the humanity of the issue.

“Water” is showing until the 26 May 2019 at the Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre, Perth.

Bookings at https://tickets.bsstc.com.au/events/water

Images by Daniel J Grant

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