Review: Water (Fringe HQ)

Venue: Fringe HQ (Potts Point NSW), Nov 5 – 16, 2019
Playwright: Mark Langham
Director: Mark Langham
Cast: Tristan Black, Lib Campbell, Mark Langham, Stephen Lloyd-Coombs
Image by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
It may seem peculiar that an incompetent undercover operative from the First World War should be memorialised, but Carl Hans Lody is certainly not the only mediocre man to have left a mark. Water by Mark Langham is a biographical work about Lody, a somewhat naive man who had inadvertently become a historical figure, for being the first German spy to be put on trial and subsequently executed in the UK. There is little in the story that could elicit emotional investment, but Langham’s humour is nonetheless enjoyable, and Water represents amusing theatre for those in search of light entertainment.

Langham’s own direction of the piece provides a style of comedy that is crisp and confident, featuring a uniformly delightful cast of four. Leading man Stephen Lloyd-Coombs is a compelling presence, able to introduce considerable charisma to what is essentially a diffident personality. Lib Campbell demonstrates great versatility and vibrancy in all her roles, as does Tristan Black, who impresses with an intense and captivating energy that he brings to the stage. As performer, Langham is exacting, able to portray a wide variety of roles with admirable clarity and contrast. Also noteworthy is sound by the aforementioned Black, and lighting by Sophie Pekbilimli, both minimal and unobtrusive in approach, yet effective in helping us navigate the play’s swift spatial transformations.

All Lody really wanted was to sail the oceans and see the world, but he ends up in our history books, completely by accident. It is perhaps true that there is nothing more meaningful than to follow one’s bliss, even when the act can seem entirely selfish and indulgent. Only in the pursuit of something that is authentic to one’s nature, can one ever imagine attaining a state of peace and purity. To understand that which fundamentally constitutes authenticity however, is the inexhaustibly difficult part. Often it is much easier to make an evaluation of what the world needs, and commit to serving those purposes. Ultimately, it is a question of doing good, the definition of which seems always to be contentious.