Black Sheep Theatre’s debut production ‘Fear of Drowning’ opened at Chapter this week and it is not what you expected. (Whatever that was.)
Elli’s the runaway bride, Tim’s her doting brother who’s most definitely a Hufflepuff and Steve’s Elli’s should-be husband. Sounds pretty straightforward really- but there’s also Deano. He’s not so straightforward. And it only takes one shark to scare the fish.
The play begins with a man’s cries and the sounds of him drowning, those two things being the physical metaphor of the ideas that this piece expresses and examines. In a basic, budget but brightly lit hotel we meet Elli (Sarah Jayne Hopkins) in a wedding dress and Tim (Keiron Self ) in a sharp suit, who at first we’re not quite sure of. But we soon find out that they’re siblings and after a little chat about a horrendously large bath, naughty lightbulbs, expensive alcohol and a Harry Potter reading being a deal winner we see that the hotel room they’re in is one they’ve fled to following Elli’s run from the altar.
Elli’s confused and hurt, leaving Steve at the altar is something she’s not sure if she’s regretting and so she leaves Tim to find her ex- just to be sure she loves Steve. And so Tim’s left to his own devices…
Until Steve (Michael Humphrey) turns up and questions Tim on Elli’s whereabouts, and with the help of Deano (Lee Mengo) he gets enough information to see him off for the night on his mission to win back his woman. Meanwhile Tim is held hostage by Deano, a ketamine fan with a quick wit, foul mouth and a sick sense of storytelling that victimises Tim even further by making him listen to his drug induced story of how he first saw Elli while aboard the Noah’s Ark Ship on a HMS mission. What’s also mentioned here a little bit about how cats are very laid-back about who sleeps with who in the cat community- Deano’s absurd and perfectly performed speech is not one you’d want to miss out on experiencing.
The play concludes with Steve returning to the hotel room and soon he and Deano are bullying a ketamine-spiked Tim into more torture. Soon after, Elli returns and is back in Steve’s arms before Tim can get to his feet. Which, becomes the reason he falls back down again. This last part of the play shows a strangely strained reconciliation between the characters.. They’ve all dived into a Wonderland of their own. And it is the Wonderland that Tim, Deano and a dream-like Young Elli enter at the end of the play that leaves us wondering what it is we’ve witnessed.
PWR Jenkin’s play is quite an experience, and a world of wonderfully absurd wit. I think its safe to say we can expect the unexpected from Black Sheep Theatre- this debut is definitely one that won’t be forgotten.