Newly formed Paper Creatures Theatre are making their debut at this year’s Camden Fringe with a new play by up and coming writer Tom Hartwell. The company was founded by actors Jon Tozzi and Nathan Coenen, and aims to promote new writing in the productions they put on (to find out more, do read this excellent feature from Millennial London).
Adam and Jess’ mum has recently died, and to top it all off their old family home (where Adam still lives) has flooded following persistent heavy downpours in the village. With Michael’s help (Adam’s best friend and Jess’ other half), they attempt the clean-up job as the funeral approaches – but when faced with change and lost memories, Adam looks to the bottle for answers. As everyone around him starts to move on with their lives outside of their childhood village, will he find his motivation for doing something more with his life?
In Flood, Hartwell tells an instantly relatable story. Now, more than ever, it is difficult to leave what you know in order to pursue a new and independent life; debts, austerity and an increased cost of living have seen to that. Speaking as someone who grew up in the country, where there is basically nothing to do, this play really struck a chord with me – not only does it show my side of the coin (why wouldn’t you move away?), but it also makes people’s reasons for staying more understandable. The play is also incredibly funny, with some great one-liners thrown in for good measure.
All elements of design for this production come together perfectly. Oscar Selfridge’s set is minimalistic, containing only items that are absolutely necessary for each scene – the transitions between these scenes are seamless, and very cleverly conceived. Benjamin Winter’s sound design plays a key role here, fusing the sound of rain and flood water rising with electronic music, as the cast quickly and purposefully move things on and off the stage. They almost work as micro-scenes in some instances, such as Adam finding bottles hidden in boxes of his mum’s possessions as they clear them away. Ali Hunter’s lighting design does well to highlight these moments, as does Georgie Staight’s direction.
A wonderful cast of five, including the writer and company founders, has been assembled for this production; Emily Céline Thomson and Molly McGeachin join them as Jess and Laura (Adam’s ex). They have impeccable West Country accents (all too often these can be exaggerated for laughs), and all have a nose for comedy.
Jon Tozzi’s portrayal of Adam shows the fragile balances in an addict’s mind, demonstrating just how easy it is to give in and lose control. In spite of his challenging behaviour, he retains the audience’s sympathy as his life has clearly reached a point of crisis – his eulogy, read whilst alone in the church, is deeply moving.
My verdict? A phenomenal debut play, with writing and performances that can’t be faulted – catch it before it floats off from the Fringe.
Flood runs at Tristan Bates Theatre until 5 August 2017 as part of Camden Fringe. Tickets are available online or from the box office.