Tuesday 1st August, 2017 at The Tristan Bates Theatre, London.
Flood is a new play by Tom Hartwell and the debut show of new London based company Paper Creatures Theatre. This comedy drama is a great example of fresh writing about modern living which explores relatable ideas with heart and substance rather than dull clichès. The comedy is as strong as the drama and Hartwell has managed to strike that delicate balance between the two in a way which invites the audience to view the transient relationship between each character and those two avenues.
In brief, the narrative follows the story of five young characters reuniting under sobering circumstances after all but one of them have moved on and away from their hometown. That hometown is now flooded, adding extra stress to an already tense event, paving the way for some fantastic comic moments as well as dark altercations. Each character has angst and their own tale, with some carrying more darkness and depth than others, but their interactions produce revelations about private pains, misleading tales and accidental betrayals that invite investment and intrigue throughout. The revelations are well crafted by the cast and director Georgie Staight, with each new bullet of information carrying significant force while bypassing that inherent danger when staging dramatic revelations of painfully obtuse or heavy handed delivery.
This cast is undoubtedly strong, with my only niggle being the somewhat unstable accents at times (although this could well be an intentional nod to the strong themes of change and identity), but they bring Hartwell’s witty, dark script to life with both charm and gravity. Jon Tozzi shines in the role of Adam, who is central to the narrative; Adam is broody and tormented but also very funny and fearless as he struggles to find his place amongst those who left him and his home behind. He is gifted some of the best of Hartwell’s comic lines and lands them beautifully. Molly McGeachin, playing Laura, arrives later in the piece but makes her time on stage count with a forceful yet gentle performance which rejects all prior impressions of her character.
Writer Hartwell also makes an appearance on stage as Ben, who craves love and a bright future but is unable to find the right path owing to his shockingly poor judgement. His scenes with Tozzi and McGeachin in are certainly some of the best highlights in this piece as Hartwell manages to make Ben both risible and tragically pitiable all at once, and that certainly takes both good writing and performances. Also impressive are Emily Cèline Thomson as Jess and Nathan Coenen as Michael; their portrayal of a couple essentially happy together but bogged downed by issues outside of their bubble is engaging and compliments the company’s desire to show real problems experienced by real people in the here and now. Thomson’s no-nonsense approach to playing Jess perfectly compliments the playful, somewhat endearingly awkward characterisation of Michael from Coenen.
Oscar Selfridge’s simple, symbolic set design is also of note. Strategically chopped up furniture is placed upon shiny black plastic to create the illusion of submersion amidst the flood, making a subtle statement about themes later paralleled in the script: modern life can leave young people feeling submerged, but there is a salvation somewhere on the surface if a person can just get themselves back to that surface. Flood has some lovely messages, a great, funny script and strong, multi-layered performances from the cast – it’s quite the debut success for Paper Creatures Theatre and I sincerely look forward to seeing what they do next.
You can catch Flood at the Tristan Bates Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe until the 5th August and you can get your tickets here – catch it if you can!