As a lover of theatre, I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about verbatim plays. On one hand, I find they are an amazing way to explore contemporary and political stories that feels real and connected, unlike purely dramatic fiction which can come across as issue-based, single-sided, and staid. On the other hand, I struggle with issues of ethics in the story (eg: including the conversation where someone asked not to be included, or highlighting as a plot point the refusal of those with opposing opinions to participate). That said, I found Soutar's script to deftly avoid many of these potential roadblocks, to create a fast-paced and engaging story about something extremely important -- water.
The performers of this re-mounted production were uniformly outstanding, most of whom played multiple tracks of parts with quick change timings that would make a stage manager faint. Juliet Fox's outstanding modular set demonstrated both utility, and an overwhelming sense of the fragility of our current situation portrayed through the play, by situating the actors on a set completely constructed of pallets.
There were definitely bumpy moments for me, from a dramaturgical perspective, including the inclusion of former Prime Minister Harper as a character (though great comic relief) and quite a lot of same-idea pushing businesspeople and politicians -- I felt the script might have benefited from a tightening to focus on what I found the most compelling, the story of the 3 little girls. Hearing the interview questions asked of adults "just doing their job" from the mouths of intelligent young children was jarring, and demanded we pay attention to what and how we answer. An excellent production and script overall, I just felt that this broadening of scope potentially missed the opportunity to really hit home by asking us real and difficult questions. Most adults have been in that position -- where a young person you love and care for asks you a question about something that even you don't understand in the world. When this happens, we are compelled to answer and yet know that there are no words that can answer their unending "why". This was the power of The Watershed, in my opinion. Young voices asking WHY.
The Watershed runs to Oct 30 at Tarragon in association with Crow's Theatre & Porte Parole.