Saturday, July 20

Cold Water – Park Theatre

Cold Water is fantastic writing by Philippa Lawford who also directs this both uproariously and understatedly funny small-scale, world-premiere production. The play is exceptionally well cast, a necessity in a two-character, full length play of any scale. Whereas some two-handers will focus on generating unbearable tension or palpable chemistry, Cold Water is the rare theatrical experience in which connection does not come at the cost of comfort. Both actors are thoroughly convincing in their characters both together and alone on stage. Under wondrously ambient lighting design by Ed Saunders even dim transitions between scenes feel captivating and revelatory.

This is a play it is impossible to tear your eyes away from, not because it keeps you on the edge of the seat or fearmongers an emotional investment out of its audience but simply because its characters are so intensely relatable. Joylon Coy plays some years past RADA graduate and current Drama A-level teacher named Matt who is assisted in his classroom by Emma (Julia Pilkington) a 22-year-old recent university graduate who harbours dreams of an acting career but is reluctant to leave port. Working together on a production of Chekhov’s The Seagull they grow close but find some gaps of age and experience unbridgeable.

The casual proliferation of plays, novels, and films that explore the dynamic of a young talented woman obsessed with a more than likely burnt out and overburdened older man, is a trend that many find troubling and for good reason. The male fantasy of easy and uncritical adoration, particularly in formal educational settings, is one that pervades this culture but is not indulged by this play. Lawford’s writing features on point class commentary, the play’s costume design is brave and effective (you have to have a lot of faith in your storytelling ability to give a sympathetic male lead a slicked back ponytail), and the compositions that underscore it (by the very talented Laurie Blundell) are so gently immersive that it is possible to meet this play at the level of its debate with good faith intact. Particularly effective in establishing this altogether essential world building and shifting the tropes that this play so deftly handles out of the realm of male fantasy and into that of the female imagination is the tremendously practical set- a classroom environment that is built out to the point of complete investment in the play’s stakes. The pinnacle of what a two-person play can be, Cold Water is brilliant, revelatory, and intimate.

Playing until 1st June,

Reviewer: Kira Daniels

Reviewed: 16th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.