I’m not one much for following an actor from show to show, but I do enjoy seeing everything a playwright has to offer. This often leads to me being first in line to book tickets for some overlooked “classic” from Tennessee Williams or Henrik Ibsen; but occasionally non-dead playwrights also get the star billing in my theater world. Nick Payne is on that list, and when his new work (The Same Deep Water as Me) was slated to debut at the Donmar, I knew I wanted in.
I’m pleased to report that The Same Deep Water as Me displays the same flair for dialogue and characterization that his previous works (that I’ve seen, Constellations and When We Were Young). The plot is markedly different: the shyster school friend (Marc Wootton) of a young attorney (solicitor? – Daniel Mays) comes to see him at work to pursue an accident claim, and, well, things don’t go as planned. The four main characters – Andrew (the young attorney), his boss, Kevin (the friend) and his wife – are all very well drawn. Kevin is especially interesting because his attitude and speech are that of a much different type of person than normally appears on stage, with his gold chain, questionable morals, and get-rich-quick visions. It’s hard to see what his wife (Niky Wardley) sees in him – but then, it’s hard to see how Andrew could ever have been in love with her, or feel so snobby about her working at Marks & Spencer. Still, the wealth of details made all of the characters seem very solid.
This, of course, leaves the story. I felt it was … well, kind of unfinished, still. Things seemed to be building up plot-wise that didn’t happen; the really interesting character conflicts that started to surface never really came to a boil (other than in one brief flash at the end, which seemed to come from out of the blue). Did some important scene get left out? It felt to me more like it was never written, especially given the snappy two hour running time. I was expecting this play to really go somewhere, and instead it spent rather a lot of a time being boring in a courtroom. Well, who knows, maybe it’ll get rewritten later and something more interesting will come out of it. It was fine as a ten quid night out (love the Donmar’s pricing!), but, despite the title, this play never got deep.
(This review is for a performance that took place on August 7th, 2013. It continues through September 28th.)