Evan Rickman has made an impressive debut with his first full-length play, Where Water Once Was, in the dual role of writer and director. At just 19-years old, this suspenseful production is an admirable start to his career that will be one to watch.
Zane Alexander (Dylan) and Madeline Page (Stephanie) play a sibling duo who are attempting to fix their parent’s crumbling Perth home before it falls into disrepair and becomes flooded. Their mother, played by Chandra Wyatt, is in an aged care home where dementia is deteriorating her memory of the current world.
As looking after her mother and dealing with the house takes over Stephanie’s life, her partner Lily, Amber Kitney, slips away and becomes forgotten. Meanwhile, a slightly deranged conspiracy-theorist neighbour, Kingsley Judd, taunts the siblings with his brash personality and unwelcome opinions. As the characters battle with their own conflicting realities, the audience is also left pondering what is real in this world.
Chandra Wyatt in Where Water Once Was. Photography by Andrea Lim.
Typical family dynamics are recognisable instantaneously as the siblings open the show with inside jokes and teasing. Things become more serious as we learn of their mother’s dementia. Chandra does an excellent job portraying someone who is slowly fading from reality while Madeline also succeeds in showing the heart-breaking frustration of a family member watching their loved one slip away.
Evan has written very distinct characters and given each of them a unique perspective and experience of the world. We see a humorous example of this through Kingsley’s characterisation of the eccentric neighbour who, with a wicked laugh, offers up disturbing and unreliable information. On the other hand, we see a once sane character, Dylan, succumb to madness. Zane offers a considered performance as Dylan, which ramps up in intensity as his character is driven to insanity seemingly by the home.
Amber Kitney and Madeline Page in Where Water Once Was. Photography by Andrea Lim.
From the very first look, set designer Elisa Von Perger makes it evident that something is off kilter about this house. The set has a mix of practical and abstract design elements, long pieces of cloth hang from the ceilings with a distressed look and the floorboards (pivotal to the story) are drawn onto the black stage in white.
No scene is left empty with sound designer Hayley Smith ensuring sound runs under each of the scenes suiting each particular environment and lifting the overall ambience.
Evan leaves us with a strong metaphor about life and its changes, the water may be gone but the scars of the river remain. It’s a message we see repeated throughout the play as the siblings try to outrun their issues. It all catches up with them in the end and what’s left is truly a confronting reality.
Where Water Once Was in on now at The Blue Room Theatre through to July 1.