Two large wooden-framed windows look down onto a busy street. The couples eat their chilli around a table. A couch offers comfort at the other side of the room. Phil Moffa’s sound design allows the wind to howl throughout the eighty minute performance.
Each relationship is strained, but it’s difficult to believe that these couples were ever really in love. Stereotypical Derry man, hard-drinking and sweary Aidan (played by John Duddy) got lost in the pub while out buying last minute supplies. He takes the piss out of Eve’s need for duct tape – a prudent requirement borne out of her experience of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.
A week ago Charlie (James Russell) found his brother Martin after a suicide attempt. Martin’s now in hospital and Charlie is preoccupied and morose, increasingly tetchy with his Australian girlfriend Mary (Sarah Stephens) who is about to take a role in a “market research-driven network television” sitcom. Mary has questionable common sense: who wears a crop top and jeans half way up your calves when going out for dinner in the middle of a storm?
There’s no interval and no let up as the waves of depression batter the apartment. Aidan knows stuff about Charlie that Mary doesn’t know, and Charlie doesn’t know Aidan knows. And given the opportunity, Eve will psychoanalyse everyone except herself. They’ll tear each other apart long before the storm.
Eve’s the strongest character with her dancing eyes and pointy elbows. When Kimberlee Walker is not on stage, her warmth is greatly missed. The script burdens Aidan with long monologues, delivered in an accent that’s neither west coast nor Derry. Sarah’s delivery of Mary’s ballad about the 2011 Queensland Floods could have been a highlight of the last ten minutes of the play but the singing lacks passion and becomes a mere plot device to turn the page into the final act.
“Sometimes there’s more honour in carrying something than dragging it out into the light.”Secrets and deception are a theme running through The Flood. One moment of risk with a secret shared late in the play informs the audience but fails to develop the plot.
Northern Ireland knows about flooding and dysfunctional relationships, but hurricanes are outside our local experience. Maybe that’s why this play left me feeling cold, and detached from the cast and the plot. Tragedy lacks the entertainment factor of comedy, but it can leave you enthralled ... if it works hard enough. Overall I was disappointed with The Flood. Amongst the bedlam in Lower East Side there was little sense of self discovery and certainly no redemption. The human storm was not diverted from its path. A shorter punchier script with a more dramatic ending (probably involving defenestration) would have been an improvement.
The Flood runs in the Lyric Theatre until Sunday 8 November.