Waterlog – Pulse Fringe Festival, Sir John Mills Theatre

Solo plays seem to be a developing theme through this years’ Pulse Fringe Festival. It’s an encouraging sign that writers are exploring the potential of small scale theatre.

Let’s start with a confession, I have never heard of Roger Deakin or his novel Waterlog, so in some respects it was starting from a step back for this rehearsed reading of Andrew Burton’s adaptation.

For those not familiar with Deakin’s work it takes a while to get into the rhythm of the language and the background to the piece. We follow Deakin as he embarks on a series of swims across the country, from his moat in Suffolk to the Fens, Scotland and beyond, each stretch of water providing a unique challenge. Waterlog is also a journey through memory as one man examines his past and present and his interaction with the environment.

Although technically a script in hand performance, Richard Earl has obviously worked hard to understand the character and delivered a strong performance with minimal staging.

Without knowing the novel it is hard to tell how many of the words belong to Deakin or Burton but it is rich, vivid script full of strong visual moments. This is still a work in progress and there is still some work to do before this works fully for the stage. For those unfamiliar with the source material the plot isn’t clear and therefore for a wider commercial success this needs reviewing. The script would also benefit some consideration of editing down the material as it currently feels overlong for a one man show. It would be interesting to see this show further down the line with some work to address the accessibility to those unfamiliar with the novel but it is certainly an interesting and promising proposition.

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