The Wet House at the Soho
Paddy Campbell’s 2013 collaboration with Live Theatre and Max Roberts, The Wet House this year turns southwards from Newcastle down to Soho. The performance features the Campbell’s original script – the story of three carers and residents in a northern homeless shelter – along with Gary McCann’s fantastic theatre art design and the return of the phenomenal cast of actors.
From the play’s core concept, The Wet House strides the uneasy line between dark comedy and moral tragedy; Campbell’s script attempts to grapple with, and reconcile, both the inherent humour of and controversial issues with the drama of national homeless shelters. Ultimately, however, it polarises them. While much of the play’s first act is dedicated to slightly uncomfortable (though nonetheless observant) humour, the agitating Act II plot turns add a bitter note to the comedy. The effect is powerful, albeit slightly dampened by the story’s often frustratingly fragmentary nature and lack of clear linear development.
Far be it, of course, to suggest that there is not a distinctly cyclical development within the characters themselves. While only the semblance of a real plot might leave one unsatisfied, the very nature of Cambell’s concept necessitates a significantly more character-driven performance. Characterisation is perhaps the area where The Wet House most seldom fails to astound: one is continually presented with harshly juxtaposing presentations of each character, from hopelessly keen turned disillusioned new recruit Andy to helplessly conflicted addict and mother-to-be Kerry.
Perhaps the most powerful performances among the cast of six are those of Chris Connel and Joe Caffrey. Connel’s portrayal of sadistic and faithless care worker Mike is both terrifyingly explosive and menacingly subtle, while Caffrey’s perpetually-inebriated Dinger captures the nuances, quirks and emotion of middle-aged alcoholism with such gritty realism that it’s his curtain call that demands a suspension of disbelief. The same consistent realism of the acting permeates the script to form an ultimately cohesive, gripping performance that perhaps exploits the dangerous conflict between tragedy and comedy – just as it exploits the conflicting character arcs of Mike and Dinger – to deliver some fantastically poignant and entertaining observations.
The Wet House is on at Soho Theatre from 22nd October until 16th November 2014, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for The Wet House here: