An Epic Theatrical Blockbuster Comedy
Oxford Revue meets 70’s comedy sketch show in Collapsing Horse’s and Project Arts Centre's “The Water Orchard,” a hilarious, intertextual, comedy cocktail suffused with almost every flavour imaginable. Referencing King Lear, Chekhov, and Agatha Christie, to name but a few, along with seventy shades of whatever you’re having yourself, this metaphysical psychodrama, full of madness, mystery, and mayhem, overflows with wild, whimsical wonder. It may not push the boundaries of surrealism and farce as far as many of its 1970’s counterparts did, but it still offers one of the funniest nights of entertainment to be had. A non-alcoholic cocktail to be sure, safe for everyone to drink, “The Water Orchard” offers a night of good, clean, clever fun, in a production even your grandmother would approve of.
Set in a decrepit old mansion on a dilapidated estate, whose legendary Water Orchard once produced the greatest vintage of water ever known, a desperate Noelle is trying to keep it together. Surrounded by a demented father, a disappeared mother, a dubious detective, a dodgy nurse and a doleful, hook handed brother, Noelle is managing a family drama of epic proportions. Stressed like a strained violin string, Noelle is about three frays away from finally snapping. For the only way to restore the house to something resembling its former glory is to get rid of the Water Orchard and turn the place into a desired destination for honeymooners. But mother’s disappearance, just as the investor is about to arrive, is throwing a spanner in the works. Can the detective find her in time? Will mother discover the forgotten secret the voices insist she remember? Will the thief get away with the ’78 Vintage? Will the method actor finally get the role? Are the government really good, despite all that unpleasantness? Only time will tell, even if we're always pressed for it and the next thing is always happening.
Writer/director Eoghan Quinn, along with co-director Dan Colley, craft a delightful, meta-theatrical comedy with ingredients too numerous to mention, yet all blending together perfectly. Or near perfectly. Showing a heavy reliance on clever word play and a heightened theatricality, with mother being a sheer delight, “The Water Orchard” is quite sparing on slapstick physicality, even though this produces some of its strongest laughs and moments. Fights, attempted murders, snagged hair and serving tuna from a tin bring a slapstick ingenuity that is often thin on the ground, playing second fiddle to word play which eventually dominates. This results in “The Water Orchard” often feeling like a single sketch stretched into a show, with not enough big, physical set pieces to break it up and fully elevate it beyond the single sketch format. Yet if “The Water Orchard” is theatrical in intent, it's cinematic in scope, with a sweeping musical score wonderfully evoking countless TV shows and mystery movies.
Aside from voices often competing with sound levels, technically, “The Water Orchard” operates to an incredibly high standard, with its collaborative design team doing outstanding work. Set and costume design by Sarah Bacon, along with lighting design by Sinead Wallace, AV Design by Jack Phelan and music and sound design by Cameron Macauley and Kevin Gleeson are as much a contributing factor to the “The Water Orchard” experience as its four sterling performances. None of which would look out of place in a Morecambe and Wise Saturday night sketch. Peter Corboy as the insecure, hook handed Addison, a man so worthless even his spotlight doesn’t want him, is a sheer delight. As is Breffni Holahan as the devious Bea, showing exquisite comic timing. John Doran as Detective Grief embodies the self-centred actor with such finesse it’s a little worrying. Rachel Gleeson as the highly strung and histrionic Noelle goes from strength to strength as the centre of this comedic universe. Mother, too, is a sheer delight, ably voiced by Eleanor Methven.
With its technical excellence, terrific performances, and multi-layered, intertextual references, “The Water Orchard” is sure to yield even more laughs and insights on each subsequent encounter. But for that to happen, you must experience that all important first encounter. So don't waste time. An epic theatrical blockbuster comedy, “The Water Orchard” is irresistible, wholesome fun. And it's playing at a theatre near you. The Project Arts Centre to be precise. And it’s a show not to be missed.
“The Water Orchard” produced by Collapsing Horse and The Project Arts Centre, runs at The Project Arts Centre until July 29th
For more information, visit The Project Arts Centre