Paul Dineen introduces The Water Harvest by Chris Lee
What drew you to directing this play?
I saw The Water Harvest shortly after arriving in England in 2007. With the exchange rate of the Aussie dollar inverse to that of West End ticket prices, I found myself seeking smaller venues, ones that produced new works and tried new things. I became a regular at Theatre 503, tucked above the Latchmere pub in Battersea. [An Aussie in a pub… in Clapham? How novel, I hear you say] By its nature, it was hit and miss theatre – that’s part of the thrill. But of all the shows I saw in those first few years, The Water Harvest stuck with me the most. It was beautifully crafted and tackled themes that I believe are more relevant now than when it was first written. It was paired back, raw storytelling, perfectly suited for a small theatre space. Only a little in the way of set – just two good actors telling a personal tale in a dynamic and captivating way.
Tell us a bit about the characters we’ll meet and the themes that are explored.
Jim and John grew up together in rural Ireland. They have a unique bond, but their personalities couldn’t be further apart. These differences have an impact on how they tackle life’s big issues from the confines of their small-town. Their retelling reminds us that memories don’t work the way we think they do. While they both tell their stories as honestly as they can, it’s still up to the audience to do some of the work in deciding if they’re reliable narrators.
What’s it like to direct a two-hander? What’s been challenging about this particular play for you?
Chris’ script has little to no stage direction, just words crafted so well they pop off the page like fireworks. It’s been great to explore the enormous range he provides and to work out the most entertaining way to tell these very real stories. The challenge we set ourselves at the beginning was to focus on creating characters that an audience cared for. Having such a powerful story provided the confidence to jettison thoughts of over complicating the production and instead gave us the time to build believable characters. The cast are perfectly suited to their roles, meaning they approach their craft from completely different angles! It’s been a fun challenge trying out different approaches and techniques, seeking the ones that suit the actor’s style and bring out their best.
What do you hope the audience will take away from this play?
Maybe you’ll recognise yourself in one of the characters, maybe someone you care about. Chris has written a stunning play that captivates and ensures you’ll be familiar with and fascinated by the characters and their stories. Hopefully the collision of their shared experience will leave you thinking about them (and any loved ones who might be like them) for a long time to come.
The Water Harvest runs July 27-July 31.