THE DEPTH OF THE OCEANby Derek Miller. Presented by Perpetual Motion Theatre at Benson Pool, U of T Athletic Centre (55 Harbord). July 5-6 and 9-13 at 9:30 pm, July 7-8 at 7 pm. Rating: NNNNN
Playwright Derek Miller's advice to anyone thinking of staging an aquacentric show is not to do it.
The head writer for Minneapolis's Perpetual Motion Theatre also acknowledges that his latest show, The Depth Of The Ocean , is riding a wave of critical success.
Admittedly it's not the easiest production to stage: actors are placed both on a raft floating in a swimming pool and in the water, and viewers sit around the pool.
Set on a lifeboat in the ocean, the show gathers figures from different periods of time and space, including two sailors from the USS Juneau, sunk in 1942, a businesswoman from a downed 1996 flight, a feminist from the doomed Lusitania and an environmentalist swept out to sea in the 2004 tsunami.
The pool's water becomes a sixth character, for at each performance it behaves differently and unpredictably.
"The show began as a clown show for two sailors trapped in a lifeboat, and even then I realized that it would be stupid to stage it on a flat floor," recalls Miller. He performs along with the rest of Perpetual Motion, a troupe that blends text and physical theatre.
Researching various water-based disasters he wanted to include in the show, the writer came up with the show's theme: the fear and paranoia that strikes after a catastrophic event.
"People can band together and come through it or become fearful and start isolating themselves from others. When the latter happens, the disaster becomes worse because of the destructive and ignorant choices that scared people make. The piece isn't about 9/11, but there's that brief moment of recognizing our insecurities."
While the show has its serious side, Miller's also a big fan of comedy and dislikes humourless shows.
"I like to trick my audience into watching a drama," he says, "and the best way to do that is to come out of the gate with a comedy."
Two of the hardest things about the show? Trying to find a pool they'd hoped to play several Fringes this summer, but only the U of T gave them permission to take over their pool and the war injuries sustained during rehearsals.
"For most of our rehearsal period," laughs Miller, "we were landlocked, working on a dining room table as the raft and pretending that the hardwood floor was the water.
"We got lots of bruises falling into the 'water.'"