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Flood
Tristan Bates Theatre
2nd August 2017

★★★★☆

Publicity image for Flood

Photography provided by Paper Creatures Theatre

I really love a good thunderstorm, with the rain crashing down outside. The crucial word of course being outside. In Paper Creatures' debut production, Flood, the rainwater is inside the childhood home of siblings Adam (Jon Tozzi) and Jess (Emily Céline Thomson). Adam has been struggling lately, with his girlfriend Laura (Molly McGeachin) having left him during an alcoholic-fuelled blur, his long-term unwell mother having passed away and his support network getting increasingly smaller, with no one else wanting to stick around in a small, ageing village with him. Never has the use of symbolism been this unashamedly obvious: this is a play about a man both metaphorically and literally drowning.

The action is a little slow at the beginning and the location vague, with the accents hinting at somewhere near Bristol, but not always consistent. Once the characters of Adam, his sister Jess and his sister's boyfriend Michael (Nathan Coenen) are established, director Georgie Staight gets into her rhythm and the laughs start to flow regularly and evenly. It helps that Tom Hartwell's script has some very witty, throwaway lines in it. Any initial doubts and niggles are quickly swept away. There's a very credible rapport between the small friendship group and an interesting change of pace when we meet schoolmate Ben (Hartwell) and the elephant in the room, Laura. In person, she's less of an elephant and more just a young woman who just wants to see what the world can offer her - a common desire at her age.

With both Ben and Laura having moved away to London, Hartwell uses the opportunity to playfully make fun of our city, writing his character as a largely two-dimensional stereotype, who is rightfully mocked by the others for his fondness for almond milk and new-found trendy vegetarianism. Rather than be offended, the audience chuckles at this walking cliché, all knowing someone similar from real life or at the very least, having spotted one in Shoreditch before. The narrative takes a few interesting turns but at its heart, it's a story about that point in your life when being an adulthood suddenly becomes really, really hard. I'm loathe to say this is a classical millennial issue because the word millennial is often bandied around as an insult, but that moment does usually come in your 20s. It's effectively about coming of age that second time round.

Oscar Selfridge's set has pleasingly clean lines with the stage carpentry versatile and well thought out, helping to keep scene changes quick and the action therefore unbroken. The polished feel to the production is further helped by Benjamin Winter's sound design and Ali Hunter's lighting design, which make the weather outside feel incredibly real. You can almost smell the damp of the countryside, shivering at the nearby storm when the electricity trips. The whole production is just very slick.

Hugely relatable, funny and executed with style. Flood touches on some very heavy issues but the actors always keep their heads above water, doing justice to Hartwell's gorgeous script.

Flood opened on 31st July and runs until 5th August 2017 at the Tristan Bates Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Piccadilly, Northern)



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