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The Pool - Black Swan Theatre Company (Perth Festival)

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan


People watching by the pool in the Australian summer - it's a staple part of the community pool experience. Who are they, what brought them to the pool, and what is their life like beyond these chlorinated tiles?

The entire show is delivered through headsets worn by the audience. Through them, we hear conversations live, as well as contemplative prerecorded 'inner' monologues for the different major characters. These monologues heighten the format, giving us moments of thoughtfulness that highlight the everyday thoughts, feelings and perspectives of the different characters in the vignettes. They also allow the audience that 'in' to see themselves within the stories.

Delivered in slice-of-life vignette form, The Pool isn't seeking the drama or comedy threads of an overarching storyline. Rather it gives us these recognisable moments and people that we can see ourselves and others in, all accompanied by the regular and choreographed swimming of the ensemble cast. Other than Joni's storyline, which is one of the strongest through the show with her character development mini-arc, there are no major breakthroughs or life changes here - it is regular people on a regular day at a regular pool. All of the elements come together to build the puzzle of life lived.

The use of an ensemble added a lovely atmosphere to this show - they provided thoughtful movement to accompany the monologue sections, adding depth and allowing it to be viewed from all locations around the pool. The slight sloshing of their constant swimming added a lovely acoustic atmosphere as well. With small vignettes, the scenes could easily be lost against the scale of the pool, but the ensemble work keeps the audience's attention focused in the right places. Carys Munk's monologue as Morgan, describing her love of swimming and the swimming club the Superfins despite the Sturge-Weber syndrome that affects her body and her vision, is a prime example of where this is used to its best - with the chorus following her swim down the pool itself in the same way that she discusses the supportive nature of swimming and the Superfins.

If you're up for some audience interactivity, you can also jump into an audience aqua-aerobics session at the end of the show that serves as a coming together of community in a literal sense. We have this community nature pointed out through the show by the vignettes, and this audience interactivity brings that to the fore and the show to a close. Please note, you do have to register to be a part of this in advance.

We were told on the way in you could sit anywhere and that everywhere has an equally good view. Whilst true for the most part, you would be best placed to ensure you are seated nearer to the shallow end of the pool, as some of the sight lines are impacted by poles, which did slightly weaken some of the vignettes for us sitting towards the deep end. I will also note, for those with sensory issues, that the audio is only transmitted through the headsets aside from the aqua-aerobics section at the end, so if you do need a break from the headsets themselves, you will potentially lose out on some of the audio.

A show well worth seeing, and well worth a night at the Pool. Diverse stories that you will find yourself in, and a novel environment make for a contemplative conversation about your own relationship with the water on the way home.

The Pool. Image Credit: Daniel J Grant.

Reviewers Note: Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.


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