How To Stage A Drowning

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Entertaining and visually interesting storytellers have more style than substance

Image of How To Stage A Drowning

@ Sloan’s Bar and Restaurant, Glasgow, until Fri 3 Jun 2016
(part of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s On The Verge Festival)

In How To Stage A Drowning, Stewart (Duncan Harte) and Samuel (Samuel Pashby) welcome us to Sloan’s Bar for the premiere of their latest film, an aquatic masterpiece with kung fu, car chases and tin cup telephones. There’s only one problem: they’ve forgotten the film. Stewart and Samuel perform their film for us on stage, making clever use of props in a piece that is imaginative and humorous, yet struggles to reach the emotional depth it desires.

Duncan Harte and Samuel Pashby are an entertaining double act, feeding off each other with a joy that is infectious. Throughout How To Stage A Drowning it is in the moments of improvisation, where rehearsed moments have gone awry, that they are truly pleasurable to watch perform. The chemistry between Harte and Pashby is the highlight of this production, which through charm alone pulls off the most entertaining series of goat-sex jokes to grace a Glasgow stage.

The story of Stewart and Samuel’s friendship is tightly written and therein lies part of the problem. How To Stage A Drowning’s formulaic narrative unfolds with an ending that is telegraphed far too early, undercutting the desired emotional surprise. We are given a story that is presented with great visual flair but that is told without drama, without urgency. It all feels too neat and predictable. We are given suggestions that this story of friendship and loss is important but are never made to feel it, never made to understand why it absolutely needs to be told now, and what differentiates it from other works produced in a similar vein.

Given a bit more space to let a story and their own performances breathe Harte and Pashby are sure to win audiences with their energetic and inventive storytelling.