Preview: Out of Water
A tale of gender, love and wild swimming by Zoe Cooper, set to be performed at the Old Divinity School at St. John’s College
For director, Bronagh Leneghan, it seems that this venture has been a long time coming. She earned her stripes producing everything from the classic ADC main to the avant-garde Corpus 11pm, an education that provided her with an acute sense of what makes a 5-star hit on the Camdram scene, and indeed, what this scene has always lacked. And she was right.
Out of Water is a show that speaks to themes of queerness, identity and love in ways that are often forgotten, and it sheds light on people and places that do not often get the privilege of having their stories told on the streets of Cambridge.
Set in the coastal town of South Shields in the Northeast, Out of Water breathes life into experiences of growing up that many of the production team find laugh-out-loud familiar. With rehearsals peppered by nostalgic tales and fits of laughter, it seems this production has been just as effective fostering a community as it has telling the stories of one.
However, the narrative does not shy away from the problems that growing up in such areas can pose. It tells the story of pregnant Claire (Alix Addinall) and her wife Kit (Kitty Ford), who make the decision to return to Kit’s hometown of South Shields to start their family and put down some roots.
But the thing about roots is that they tend to require a lot of digging and between Kit turning over her own past and Claire’s new job at the local school sparking a surprising connection with the young Fish (Roma Ellis). The pair soon discover they have a lot more to learn than they first thought – or perhaps South Shields has a lot more to teach them.
From Emergency Contact List troubles to the trials and tribulations of gutting a fish, these lessons are not always easy. As Claire struggles to find her place in a community already well-set in its rhythms, it seems she may lose the identity she fought for along the way.
The ebb and flow of identity that is so central to the play is what attracted many of its cast and crew; in the telling the stories of Kit, Claire and Fish, we all discover and rediscover pieces of our own.
Through asking questions about what it means to be queer, and what it means to be non-binary, particularly in a community which does not always have the privilege of empathy, the play tells stories of identity, and how we come to terms with our own and that of others, with a light touch and unique reality.
As Cambridge is a place where identity seems to be more important than perhaps anywhere else, the stories of how we adjust, trim and temper, ourselves and our identities, upon our comings and goings to and from University for example, are reflected and explored on the stage.
What is your homecoming – leaving Cambridge, or coming back?
As Assistant Director, the generosity of the actors, particularly in the show’s final moments (heart-warming and wrenching in equal measure) is truly breath-taking. With the intimacy of the writing demanding a small – but amazingly talented – cast of only three actors, each required to double up and explore various other characters from a disgruntled P.E teacher to the “chair-rocking” year ten, the show rests on their chemistry and connection – both to the story and to one another.
The play is a homage to snapshots of Bronagh’s own childhood as she offers up a pastiche of the songs, sounds and people of home. This is coupled with film from the BFI video archive and some fantastic set design by Philippa Somerset. The dark oak and crimson of the Old Divinity School at John’s has been transformed into a place rich in beautiful stories, and equally beautiful characters.
Out of Water is running from Tuesday 22nd February until Saturday 25th at 7.30pm at the Old Divinity School, St John’s College. Tickets are available here.
All profits from the show will be going to North-East based charity, Be: Trans Support and Community.
Feature image credits (poster design credits): Bernie Carter