Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Archimedes Principle, Park Theatre

Review: Archimedes Principle, Park Theatre

Published in Time Out, 22.04.2014

There’s been a complaint at the public pool. One of the swimming coaches, Brandon, stands accused of showing affection to a child in his ‘seahorses’ kids’ class. Was it an innocent kiss, intended to reassure a water-fearing swimmer, or was there some sexual intent at play?

We never find out and, for Catalan playwright Josep Maria Miró’s purposes, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it sparks a momentous panic: among the parents, Brandon’s colleagues and, in particular, his manager Anna, who lost her own teenage son seven years ago. The ambiguity leaves us to decide who we – and, indeed, society – ought to trust: the child or the adult? Client or employee? ‘Victim’ or accused?

It’s a familiar dilemma and a demanding one, but, whether on its own merits or in Dustin Langan’s translation, Miró’s script is pretty unconvincing. His characters voice their every half-thought and lay bare their personal histories willingly. No one keeps secrets. No one thinks tactically, despite the unfeasibly high stakes that unfurl over a single lunchbreak. Yet they do find time to indulge in a spot of nostalgia for the good old days, before all this health and safety madness.

Within an hour of the initial accusation, a rent-a-mob riot is gathering outside the leisure centre and the whole thing creaks, unwittingly, into what feel like a bizarre JG Ballard spoof. Brandon’s seahorses are throwing stones at the building. ‘Some of the dolphins too,’ quivers his boss, as what sound like huge boulders clatter overhead.
It’s all just so on the nose, without a scrap of metaphorical resonance.

Marta Noguera-Cuevas’s production misses more tricks than a distracted parent. Given the theme of over-regulation, it’s astounding that Cory Roberts’s locker room set hasn’t a pool rules sign, and the acting is mostly turgid and wrung out. The whole thing’s as embarrassing as a purple patch in the pool.

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