Treading Water at the New Theatre – Review

Guide2Dublin.com were nice enough to send me to review ‘Treading Water’, which opened tonight. Very enjoyable, I’d recommend giving it a look. Here’s my short review for G2D, if you’d like to know a little more.

Treading Water – Review

By James Keating

‘Treading Water’ begins with the simplest of plots; a robbery gone wrong and a trio of thieves who aren’t quite able to handle the situation. It’s not new or original, so writer Mike Poblete had to offer something a little different. He’s set the play on a boat.

Not enough to carry the play by itself of course, the absurd premise is, rather, a hint at the farce waiting to unfold. Dan and young cousin Ralphie, Irishmen living in America, are joined by Dan’s oldest friend from Dublin, Grinder. Together they steal a bag of cash from a bookies. In the process they break their only rule; ‘no-one gets hurt’.

It’s not nearly as grim as it sounds. Think ‘In Bruges’ and you probably have a good idea of what ‘Treading Water’ is all about. Foul-mouthed chancers making a thorough mess of their not-all-that-carefully laid plans.

The play is more about dialogue than plot or premise. Insults fly thick and fast from early on between Grinder and Dan, who really do seem like old friends from the off. The interplay between them is excellent. Dan is played mostly straight, a foil to the unpredictable Grinder, who treads a fine line between charisma and repulsiveness. He’s utterly compelling.

In fact, Grinder is the best thing about ‘Treading Water’. He’s a lovable man-child, a dangerous criminal and a lunatic, it’s quite hard to take your eyes off him. Bryan Baker plays the character perfectly, giving him just enough charm to make us like him, yet we know we can’t trust him. His bravado, you feel, is covering his fear of the situation he finds himself in.

The rest of the cast don’t disappoint of course. Ed Beausang lends Dan a likeability that’s at odds with his actions. Darragh Reck, in his first major theatre role, really grows into the part of Ralphie, a troubled young man who really doesn’t belong with the hapless Dan and Grinder.

Rounding out the cast is Sorcha Herlihy, who should be incredibly irritating as Jamie, the boat’s Jersey Shore-accented driver. She’s not irritating at all though, playing the character with the silliness it deserves and eliciting plenty of laughs in her time on stage. She’s a well-judged pastiche of the ‘Joysey’ culture MTV foists upon society.

As a group the cast are brilliant, but it all hangs on Bryan Baker’s performance. His comic timing is impeccable and he uses what is a very good script to perfection, relishing the vulgarity of Grinder’s vocabulary.

‘Treading Water’ is a simple idea executed well. The plot, while not unique, is engaging throughout thanks to strong characters and great performances. It never becomes too intense or emotional, even when the character’s reasons for their crime surface. By the end of the play there’s a definite attachment to them, which really speaks volumes for all involved.

Treading Water runs until March 10th in the New Theatre, Temple Bar. Tickets are €15 or €12 with concession. The show begins at 8pm. See http://www.thenewtheatre.com/ for details.

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