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Cold Water | Park Theatre

Cold Water, currently running at north London’s Park Theatre, gives audiences a new perspective on the theatre industry as it examines the lives of two people who aspire, or once aspired, to be part of it.

Emma (Julia Pilkington) is 22, and feels like this is “maybe not the best part” of her life. She wants to be an actress but has come home to Harpenden after university and is working in her old secondary school. Drama teacher Matt (Jolyon Coy), who went to RADA, but whose acting career amounted to “a shit Fringe play and play[ing] a soldier on the telly” takes her under his wing and relives some of his own glory days while trying to prepare her for drama school auditions.

Writer-director Philippa Lawford tells Emma and Matt’s story through a series of moments, giving us a window into the pair’s life. It is largely a pretty gentle affair, but does pose questions about what we want, what we settle for, and the boundaries we create for ourselves in achieving our goals. The dialogue is slick and witty, and both characters feel real and relatable.

Coy and Pilkington have excellent chemistry, and both characters and actors bounce off one another well. As Emma, Pilkington is nervous and insecure, but still displays a strong sense of self at times. This is contrasted with Coy’s Matt, who has a calm confidence, even tending into arrogance, which belies a certain amount of insecurity about his own life choices.

Chekhov’s The Seagull is woven into the script, with parallels drawn particularly between Emma and the character of Nina. For those who haven’t read or seen The Seagull, some of the references may be lost, but enough context is given for those who, like Emma, have only looked at the SparkNotes. However, the Chekhov references work best when they are woven into Emma and Matt’s story, and one scene in which the pair suddenly don costume and become part of the play feels a little out of place within the rest of the piece.

The black-box setting is well-utilised as the addition of a desk, a whiteboard, a stack of chairs and some notice boards quickly transforms it into the ubiquitous school classroom. Changes in lighting from designer Ed Saunders are used to mark scene changes while actors leaving the stage bring on additional props to mark the passage of time. For much of the play, the whiteboard displays the words ‘what do you want?’, underscoring the theme of the piece.

Witty and thought-provoking, Cold Water is an enjoyable watch which may prompt audiences to consider that whiteboard question – what do we want?

Cold Water runs at Park Theatre until 1st June. It is part of Park’s Make Mine a Double offer which allows patrons to see two shows on the same evening for a reduced rate. For more information and tickets, follow the link here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Jake Bush


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