‘Rising Water’ is a World Premiere from W.A.’s very own, Tim Winton. Winton is a four time Miles Franklin Award winner and was short-listed twice for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. In spite of his huge success at novel writing – 21 books to date - this is the first time introverted Tim has taken a very nervous, but highly successful leap into writing his first play.
‘Rising Water’ is presented by the Black Swan State Theatre Company at the Heath Ledger Theatre within the State Theatre Centre of WA, in Northbridge. After Perth, this production heads over to Melbourne. Performances commence at 7.30 each night until 17th July.
When you live on a boat and are girt by sea, you have no real neighbours – a genuine freedom from life’s problems, free as a bird.
It is Australia Day, and as dusk falls in the Fremantle marina, a young boy (Kai Arbuckle – alternating with Callum Fletcher) rows his small craft between the yachts, weekenders and houseboats. Ray the Boatie (Stuart Halusz) goes about his business on the quayside.
A smartly dressed businesswoman, Jackie (Alison Whyte), arrives home from another international meeting, and clambers down to the deck of her immaculate sloop, ‘Mercy’. She waves to the owners of the two boats moored next to her, before going below.
Ocker Col (Geoff Kelso) tells us about his world travels and his extensive sailing abilities. His craft has seen some years in the briny, but not as many as Baxter’s rotting vessel tied up next to him. Col chats to his friend Baxter (John Howard) about the exotic meal he is about to prepare, and offers to share it.
Baxter is an amiable and seemingly well-educated man, very quiet and withdrawn, has he a secret? Or indeed, have all of the marina’s occupants some hidden history?
As the celebrations get going around the harbour, Col and Baxter await the start of the fireworks display. A young Cockney backpacker, Dee (Claire Lovering) staggers her way along the boardwalk. She is extremely drunk and very much the worse for wear. When Baxter asks this racist girl to come on board for a bite to eat, could this be the start of problems for him, or is this his redemption?
‘Rising Water’ has been written by Tim Winton, mainly in the vernacular, but in part in his beautiful poetic and descriptive writing style. At times the dialogue is a little too rich to be real, but is a total joy to listen to. The humour, and there is plenty in this otherwise dark tale, is fresh and clever, ranging from Geoff Kelso’s rough-as-guts delivery, to the situation humour when Dee describes Perth and its occupants.
Director Kate Cherry and her assistant director Stuart Halusz have perfectly captured the mood of this very Australian play. With a superb cast – all award winners – you soon become completely absorbed. Movement director, Lisa Scott-Murphy, and dramaturg, Polly Low have combined to give a most natural open-air, free moving feel to the acting.
John Howard was wonderful as the depressed, confused loner. Geoff Kelso was hilarious as the rough Aussie, but showed that he can also handle the serious side of acting with ease. Alison Whyte gave a strong performance as the hard self-assured woman, who was really a softie at heart, and then there is ex-WAAPA newcomer, Claire Lovering, in a brilliant characterisation of the emotion filled, tarty backpacker, again with an enigmatic background.
Christina Smith’s set is outstanding. Three fully rigged craft on the stage, a quayside, and a skyline showing the moving masts of the boats in the background. Matt Scott’s lighting design was inventive and ingenious. Throughout the performance, the soundscape of the harbour, the fireworks display, the surrounding taverns, were all blended with the genuine sea and harbour noises; all achieved by Iain Grandage. Topped off with Christina Smith and Fiona Bruce’s true to life costumes.
There was an underwater sequence and a major set change at the end of the play, I won’t spoil the surprises, but I just gasp at the technical qualities of this new theatre. Congratulations to stage manager, Anna Dymitr Hawkes’ team, some tricky work in perfect silence.
Some may find the end a little open-ended, but I found this to be a completely satisfying play and as always with Tim, a superb insight of the people of WA. Proficient and powerful throughout. Highly recommended.
Hot Room Theatre Group
in association with Horizon Theatre presents