There is a blue and white inflatable pool lying patiently on BATS Theatre’s The Stage. My friend and I spend some time finding the right seat for optimal view and potential splash zone excitement. I don’t mind that the staging is simple - I presume that the visual dynamics will come from the water alone. Colombo arrives as Brooke on stage cued by an overheard announcement - we are in Room Two. Room Two is revealed to be the ‘next’ room in an unusual take on purgatory. This is an original premise, it feels like a theatrical take on backrooms or liminal spaces. From the get-go, Colombo sets the tone of this one-hour monologue to be conversational, she puts her hands in her pockets and tells us of Brooke’s childhood connection to water. I cast my own mind back to childhood memories of overcrowded wave pools, ill-fitting goggles, hidden water holes, and small-town communal swimming pools after 5 pm. The energy feels like a lucid dream, I am eager to see where the show will turn, twist, drip, and flow, but it doesn’t. It’s the same (often poetic!) monologue about grief for an hour, the water is barely touched.
I’ve heard about Colombo’s talent for improvisation and stand-up through the notoriously fast-moving theatre grapevine. Colombo is certainly likable, but I don’t think this script or the direction give room to showcase her talents, there’s not really any banter and the jokes feel scripted. The imitation of their family members and their responses to Brooke’s death add some colour to the show, but the varying accents feel unbelievable. It’s entirely possible for a large family to have a fun clusterfuck of New York, Kiwi, and Southern - but sadly it feels more like an excuse to do exaggerated accents for funnies. In saying that, if Colombo had played more to her stand-up abilities, it could have sent me reeling - a simple aside like, “yeah, she’s from Brooklyn, I don’t get it either” might have left us less disorientated.
Brooke describes each of her family member's grief as a different flow of water - I love this part the most. But here’s the real kicker for me, these poetic descriptions are only ever told, not shown (except one small moment!), and there’s a pool on stage, c’mon! Now I don’t know for sure what BATS Theatre’s policy is about water on stage, but I’ve seen some truly messy stuff! I’m confident that the lack of interaction with the water was a creative choice and not a safety one. I want to see how her Auntie’s grief is like an infinity pool, or how her friends’ is like torrential rain! Columbo does enter the water eventually - she lies in it, staring up at the ceiling - providing some final commentary on Brooke’s life and asking the omnipresent speaker for, “just five more minutes”. If this moment was a final breath of serenity after a splashing and crashing climax, it would have felt earnt.
I need to add that I think this show could really be something, the concept alone is fresh - but it needs to play more, it needs more showing, less describing. It’s also Fringe, the time to try new concepts and see how they stick! Flow, in its current development, doesn't have much sticking power, but it’s certainly got bones - add some more splash and I’m there.
Flow is on for three more nights from the 7th-9th of March- tickets are available on the BATS Theatre website.