Archimedes’ Principle at the Park Theatre

(Photo for The Park Theatre)

I visited a new theatre this week (sticking to at least one of my new year’s resolutions!). The Park Theatre opened last May in Finsbury Park and contains two performance spaces, one with 200 seats (Part200) and a smaller performance space holdings only 90 seats (Park90). It was the current show at Park90, Archimedes’ Principle that I went to see.

This is a Spanish play written by Josep Maria Miro i Coromina and translated by Dustin Langan for its UK premiere. The title intrigued me initially – the programme sets out that Archimedes’ Principle is that “Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object.” In essence through the events of the play we see what could happen if the opposing force on the object overpowers it. In this case it is a person, Brandon, in danger of being submerged by a chain of events he cannot control.

Brandon works as a swimming coach at the local swimming pool. He is young, handsome, athletic and enjoys the banter he has with his fellow coach and friend Matt. It is also clear that he loves his job and is passionate about teaching the young children to overcome their fears and have fun in the water. However on the day on which the play is set he discovers that he has been accused of inappropriate behaviour with one of the young boys in his class – namely a young girl has told her parents that he kissed one of the boys on the mouth, something Brandon strenuously denies.

What follows over the 80 minute running time is an exploration of relationships, trust, honesty and the world we live in today. It is not an easy subject to think about, but one that is sadly all too relevant and, in the wake of the recent child abuse scandals, prominent in all our minds and needs to be approached with care and sensitivity. Thankfully the play does just that.

(Photo by: George Alexandre)

The intimate staging choices are very effective in light of the powerful nature of the subject and the small cast and is very similar to the recent staging of The Pass at the Royal Court. The scenes unfold with the audience sitting on either side of the performance space, which adds to the uneasy feeling that grows as the story unfolds and I particularly enjoyed the structuring of the play. Told in a non-linear fashion, the structure works well to increase the uncomfortable atmosphere. It also gives the audience different perspectives on the same moment, as a later scene which fills in blanks from earlier in the timeline, provides fresh information and insight in to a moment you thought you already understood. Each scene change is marked by the space being plunged in to darkness, as the sound of a public swimming baths fills the air.

The centre of the play is Brandon and Lee Knight plays him convincingly. He starts the play as a confident, cocky young man and becomes someone increasingly frightened by the events spiralling around him and the fragile trust his co-workers seem to have in him. I certainly felt a great deal of sympathy for him throughout most of the play and found it unnerving when this sympathy was shaken every so often by comments or moments that make the audience question his character, just like his colleagues. It is certainly not an easy role and Lee does a great job, often conveying Brandon’s thoughts through nothing but his eyes.

Matt Bradley-Robinson is very good as Matt, who remains conflicted between his friend and the events unfolding. Julian Sims is a strong presence as a concerned, slightly threatening parent trying to justify to manager Anna why, where children are involved, it becomes necessary to distrust adults, which is a sad statement indeed. I found Kathryn Worth’s portrayal of Anna a little less believable, although that may be due to the play itself. I was unconvinced that someone in such a managerial role would not have clear policies in place in the event of such an incident occurring and the way she handles the accusation seemed unrealistic. I did however find the scenes where we discover more about her past interesting and well acted.

It is a brave choice by the playwright to take no side – we are left to come to our own decision as to whether we believe Brandon or not, after seeing and hearing everything that has occurred. What the play does well is make you realise how easily such a situation could arise – someone sees something (or thinks they see something), tells someone else, who posts it on social media. In our fast paced world nothing can be contained for very long, which is a frightening thought in itself. It also raises questions – who can we believe? How much should we have a right to know about our colleagues? How can we know our children are safe? Does our need for safety sometimes go too far, unnecessarily damaging the lives of others?

Overall I enjoyed my trip to the Park Theatre and Archimedes’ Principle is an interesting play, which certainly leaves its audience with plenty to think about. If you have time to see it then you should.

Archimedes’ Principle runs at Park90 at the Park Theatre until 11th May. For more details visit the theatre’s website:

http://parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/archimedes-principle

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