I saw the opening night performance of Will King’s From the Water, presented by Seven Siblings Theatre at Tarragon’s Extraspace.
A rush of responses across several categories helps me to write. It’s wonderful to be moved, to be excited on several fronts.
From the Water is Will King’s first play, an impressive piece of work. I am almost stunned, disbelieving, because this is a remarkable first play on several fronts.
For ninety minutes we’re swept into a world not quite like our own, science fiction that is speculation and conjecture rather than effects or monsters. Sure there are similarities to our own lives, in their pizza flavours or the DVDs they watch. But in a few crucial ways it’s a world that’s not like our own.
And what’s especially magical is the dramaturgy. They can’t make this world happen using CGI. It has to be story-telling and good acting, and we’re plunged into this world from the first line of the play.
There is one other thing that’s not mentioned anywhere in the program namely sound design (or music composition if you prefer): which I will ascribe to Will King, the playwright. Because he said in his recent interview that he creates music, I’ll consider him the likely creator until someone tells me differently. The extra magic in the sound helped animate their stage.
Will is also one of the four actors (also Shawn Lall, Anna Silvija Broks, and Hilary Wirachowsky) bringing From the Water to life. As I prefer to go spoiler-free (no I won’t give it away) I can’t say too much. The Tarragon Extraspace is a tight little venue that leaves little room for error. While the blood that I saw spilled from my front-row vantage point might have been fake, I was still jolted, still totally persuaded.
I’m reminded a bit of a great old sci-fi thriller from the 1960s, namely The Day of the Triffids, a film whose greatest power came in suspenseful dread of what might happen rather than in explicitly showing us what we feared. It’s actually better not to see too much. And that means, the commitment of the performers makes us care what happens to them. We care because they make us believe.
An added wrinkle in the text is something that Kafka likely would have admired, namely a kind of existential humour in the exposition of an absurd world. Working from first principles we are confronted with the simplest of predicaments, the breakdown of communication due to a complete lack of life experience.
If you’re a brand-new clone, what do you really know about anything? Its simplicity is wonderfully elegant, to be clueless because you’ve just come into the world.
The gormless innocence you see in this smiling picture of Will King is perfect for the role he’s written for himself, one he understands from the inside out.
It’s a superb performance.
All four of the actors make this alternative world live, under the guidance of director Erik Helle. While there are suggestions of a dystopia we could be in any local suburbia, one that is under attack from something that’s not fully explained.
In most science fiction doesn’t the jargon, the unrelenting complexity drive you nuts? To set it all up, for you to buy into that world, normally there’s way too much exposition, way too much of a premise, that requires the creation of a huge explanation before we can even start. Oh but that’s not what we get here. The people in this world are simply inside this puzzle, and struggling to figure it out, and so of course they are not spouting big words and fancy language. Nope. They are properly overwhelmed and freaked out.
And that makes it much more believable than what one usually encounters, because it’s true from the inside out, viscerally authentic.
I’m still a bit shaken, as I write this a couple of hours later.
From the Water continues at Tarragon Extraspace until Dec 16th.