Waterproof

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Lise McNally

at 22:58 on 20th Aug 2011

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An hour in the company of Laura (Eva Sampson) and her goldfish Toby is like having a cup of tea and a Prozac… on a rainbow. The show is colourful, cheering and really rather moving, as Sampson transforms an abandoned aquarium through the power of storytelling. Making excellent use of a variety of media including puppetry, mime and phantasmagoria, Laura explores childhood memories, first-times and fantasy relationships with David Tennant-alikes. The result is a piece which is varied, vibrant and entertaining.

Sampson herself takes control of the stage with an admirable energy. Like a 22 year old Pippi Longstocking, Laura is red haired, smiley and utterly adorable. Sampson’s vocal performance is particularly enchanting. Continuingly diverse and engaging, she delivers a 19 year old Jafaican and a middle aged man with equal aplomb. Indeed, the whole performance has something of Aladdin’s cave about it. Opening little draws to suddenly reveal a diorama, or unveiling a washing line to flourish some sock puppets, Laura’s story telling is a gorgeous visual display. Soft lighting, nostalgic music and the calming presence of Toby the Goldfish swimming softly in his tank make for a restful and enjoyable afternoon viewing. Indeed, as long as they are old enough to handle a rather innocent reference to the first time “we did it” (which is as raunchy as it gets), this would be a marvellous show for a younger audience too.

However, the script is more “smile indulgently” than laugh-out-loud hilarious. Apart from a generously guffawing audience member in the fourth row, I counted only two and a half occasions when the whole audience laughed. That said, smiles were plenty, and a few moments were incredibly touching and sad. There is really little to fault in the production, which was well paced and magically staged, except to say that it isn’t for everyone. The idea of a plot largely based on the unfounded daydreams of an ocean-enthusiast might seem a little too removed from reality for some. Yet for those looking for a ramble through the poetical musings and physical comedy of a highly likeable character, Waterproof is utterly gorgeous.

Incidentally, Toby also delivers a well nuanced and sophisticated performance.

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Kate Abnett

at 11:19 on 21st Aug 2011

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Waterproof is a one woman show about Laura, a lost but adorably optimistic woman whose workplace – Aquatown, Luton’s only aquarium – has just closed down. A kooky romantic, Laura tells her new goldfish and the audience about herself, illustrating her storytelling with a set that blooms into a kaleidoscopic world of imagination.

Everything about this production is charming. The show is a colourful collage of different mediums, a screen showing the old black and white movie scenes Laura dreams about being in is a lovely touch and music is used as another voice to relate the adventures of Laura’s mind. Visually, it is an aladdin’s cave - cupboards open to revel doll’s house sized beaches, confetti erupts from the pockets of a bright yellow mac and new characters are created from sock puppets and piles of paper packages.

Eva Sampson portrays Laura brilliantly. She is right when she tells us “It’s hard, being a romantic nowadays.” On paper, a character as cheerful as this would annoy me silly, yet Sampson radiates her enthusiasm and optimism with such skill and wholeheartedness that it feels true. She takes us by the hand on a journey to the beach, a parade and most impressively, into the world of childhood. Sampson speaks directly to the nostalgia for childhood so many of us know, and in an anecdote about ‘chasing the moon’ to the seaside with her Dad, she poignantly reminds us that some feelings are known by all ages.

The writing was very gentle, and if the one reference to sex was omitted, it would have children enraptured. This is not to say that it was one dimensional – like everything else in the show, it was as full of life as a pop-up book, embroidered with little statistics (there are thousands of fish swimming around the world without a named species) and swirls of rhythm – I noticed two instances where Laura’s speech subtly transformed into poetry, but there may have been more.

Discovering hidden gems like these made watching this show a joy. Wonderful acting, a beautifully makeshift set and a vintage soundtrack make Waterproof ideal entertainment for an easy summer’s afternoon.

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