‘Something in the Water’ // The Naughty Corner Collective

‘Something in the Water’ was quenching.

Lurking within the Lumen Room of Metro Arts, new play ‘Something in the Water’ has surfaced as a must-see piece of theatre. With an original text (by local creatives) that will leave audiences gasping, the production was crafted with plenty of professional style and filled with enthralling content.

Presented by the emerging cooperative, The Naughty Corner Collective, ‘Something in the Water’ took risks that paid off. Not often does a script spur a desire to be a part of the action, but this production had all that impact and more. The ability of the creative team to move tension throughout with witty dialogue and simplistic direction allowed moments to sink into the consciousness of a completely engaged audience.

Set in a town where nothing ever happens and no one ever leaves, audiences heard the story of four friends desperate to shake things up. Spending an evening drinking at their local pub and playing adolescent games, secrets are revealed, relationships are betrayed, and the kids are forced to grow up. It’s a nontypical coming-of-age story, perfect for our technologically obsessed society.

Written by co-authors, Bianca Bality and Joe Wilson, the pair have crafted a text that spoke to our current generation and any individual who may feel trapped in their past. The characters presented in the show are stereotypes whose stories have a familiarity. They are people we relate to or can subconsciously be associated with someone we know. However, as their circumstances escalate over the course of the plot, their situation becomes entirely incongruous.

Bality and Wilson have intertwined reality and fantasy in a cleverly conceptualised drama. Filled with many relevant nods to current trending topics, the action has a way of sucking in an audience, chewing them up and spitting them back out with a changed perception. Not to mention, it’s crafted with an incredible formula for intrigue. There were so many twists within the storyline that it was hard to predict where the tale was venturing – until the final few scenes.

The direction was entrusted to keen theatre-maker, Jess Bunz, and in the limited space of the Lumen Room, Bunz created a compelling flow of action. Actors moved between the left and right of the stage, which resembled different areas travelled to by the script. In scene changes, characters entered and exited the stage in full sight and Bunz utilised the ebb and flow within the script to have her performers take on the roles of stagehands as well. Shielded only by a blue wash, which uncannily resembled water, the momentum and pace of the storyline never lacked and was easily facilitated by voice-overs.

At times, due to the limited rake to the stage and staggering of the seats, the audience missed some action; especially when players sat on the floor or were lower to the ground. A small issue in the grand scheme of things, there was an opportunity to explore sightlines within the space a little more to accommodate a sell-out audience, who had to bobble between the heads in front of them.

Set Designer, Claire McFadyen, who also doubled as one of the lead roles, has created dynamic scenes for actors to criss cross between. Almost split in half, the crowd left of the stage featured a brush-stroked painted gum-leaf forest background, with an earthy-toned rock. This scenery also opened to become Shane’s room, complete with porn magazines, Motley Crue band posters and teenager knick-knacks. On the crowd right of the stage, there was a typical Aussie pub with rippled steel sheets, wooden exterior and a table with chairs. One of the highlights was the working tap that spilled out water (from a hypothetical dam) for actors to drink. An incredibly built piece, the tap encapsulated the whole visual aesthetic of the production. 

Sound Design by Sabrina Talbot created an ambient atmosphere that placed us in each location. Voice-overs assisted with the transition between scenes, with varied interjections from each character about neurology and their feelings. It was tightly woven together and selectively broke tension where needed.

With only a cast of four, the actors worked the audience with effective comic timing and dramatic pause. Standout of the evening was Joe Wilson (yes, writer AND actor) who played the typical Aussie larrikin, Mark. Wilson had the audience in fits of laughter with his character’s naivety and inexperience with girls. He was bold and uncouth, but endearing during his scenes where he vulnerably told of his desires of having kids and finding someone to love.

Claire McFadyen played the ultimate mean girl, Melanie, with complete accuracy and an unapologetic personality. McFadyen had lovely moments where she revealed her characters sad loneliness regarding her promiscuous personality, but there were also scenes where she variously switched into an ignorant, confident and self-obsessed floozy. McFadyen construed these changes well and the audience saw multiple sides to a girl lost in her own world.

In the centre of the action was a couple, Toni, played by Katie Pierce, and Shane, played by Vedran Bicanic. Together the two had undeniable and comfortable chemistry and bounced off each other in their roles. Pierce was straight and direct with her characterisation of an insecure friend, and Bicanic was overwhelmingly supporting and understanding as her boyfriend. Although both characters handled the content of the play well, and incoming spoiler alert to anyone who hasn’t seen the show, there could have been higher stakes during their attempts to hide the murder. Their delivery, especially when discussing what to do with the car and body, seemed too composed and there could have been more desperation in their portrayal.  

Overall, ‘Something in the Water’ completely immersed its audience. This new Australian work fits completely within our industry and tells a compelling new story with relevancy and relatability. For the Naughty Corner Collective, this is just the start of a stellar journey ahead of them.  One thing is for sure, they should take bottled water for their adventures.

‘Something in the Water’ has finished its season, but for more information about The Naughty Corner Collective, visit https://www.facebook.com/tnccollective/

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