*Join us for a fascinating talk in which Simon Stephens discusses playwriting and his new Royal...… Read more
Wastwater unites playwright Simon Stephens with director Katie Mitchell for the first time.
Set on the edges of Heathrow Airport, Wastwater is an elliptical triptych – a snapshot of three different couples who make a choice that will define the fallout of their future.
Harry is on the point of leaving England. Frieda knows she will never see him again.
Lisa and Mark are on the point of a sexual betrayal that takes them into a place darker than they ever thought possible.
Sian has a terrifying deal for Jonathan. She isn’t going to take no for an answer.
Simon Stephens’ last play at the Royal Court was Motortown in 2006. His previous plays for the Royal Court include Country Music, Herons and Bluebird. His plays elsewhere include Punk Rock at the Royal Exchange, Manchester and Lyric Hammersmith, Pornography at the Edinburgh Festival, Harper Regan at the National Theatre and On the Shore of the Wide World at the Royal Exchange, Manchester.
Katie Mitchell’s recent work includes Martin Crimp’s The City for the Royal Court, After Dido for English National Opera and the Young Vic, and Pains of Youth,…some trace of her, Waves, Three Sisters and The Seagull at the National Theatre
Recommended for ages 16+. Contains adult themes, explicit language and scenes of a sexual nature
Running time 1hr 40mins no interval
Wastwater is a co-production with the Wiener Festwochen (Vienna).
Read Katie Mitchell and Simon Stephens’ interview with Time Out, discussing Wastwater and their process here.
£10 Monday tickets are available on the day of perf from 9am online, 10am in-person, and in advance to Friends and Supporters
Select a Date
Dates in March
|Thu 31 Mar 2011||7:30pm||Concessions Available, Preview||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
Dates in April
|Fri 1 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Concessions Available, Preview||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 2 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Concessions Available, Preview||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Mon 4 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Concessions Available, Preview||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Tue 5 Apr 2011||7:00pm||Press Night||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Wed 6 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 7 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Fri 8 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 9 Apr 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 9 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Mon 11 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Tue 12 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Post-Show Talk||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Wed 13 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 14 Apr 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 14 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Fri 15 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 16 Apr 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 16 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Mon 18 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Tue 19 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Captioned Performance||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Wed 20 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 21 Apr 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 21 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 23 Apr 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 23 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Tue 26 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Wed 27 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 28 Apr 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 28 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Fri 29 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 30 Apr 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 30 Apr 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
Dates in May
|Tue 3 May 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Wed 4 May 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 5 May 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 5 May 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Fri 6 May 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 7 May 2011||3:30pm||Concessions Available, Audio Described Performance, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 7 May 2011||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
Sold out Performances
£10 Monday tickets can be booked in advance by Royal Court Friends and Supporters. Annual membership starts from £25 and can be booked with the Box Office on 020 7565 5000. 50% of the tickets for each £10 Monday performance will be released for public booking online at 9am on the day of the show.
Concessions £5 off top two prices (available in advance for all performances until 9 April inclusive and all matinees. For all other performances, available on a standby basis on the day)
25s and under £8 (ID required, not bookable online)
School and HE Groups of 8+ 50% off top two prices (available Tuesday–Friday)
Groups of 6+ £5 off top price (available Tuesday–Friday)
Access £12 (plus a companion at the same rate)
Tom Sutcliffe, BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Review Saturday 9th April 2011
Presenter Tom Sutcliffe and guests discuss Wastwater . Listen here (26.47 minutes in).
Kirsty Wark, BBC 2’s The Review Show Friday 8th April 2011
Kirsty Wark and guests discuss Wastwater .Listen here (10.45 minutes in)
Rana Mitter and Michael Coveney, BBC Radio 3, Night Waves, Tuesday 5th April 2011
Listen here (12 minutes in).
“ I found myself literally on the edge of my seat.” 4 stars Michael Coveney, The Independent, Friday 8th April 2011
The art teacher and the policewoman having an afternoon tryst in a hotel bedroom near Heathrow Airport talk about the Lake District. His sister has gone to Lancaster to visit their mother, while she remembers camping holidays on Wastwater, the deepest lake in the country, half covered in shadows, still and secretive.
Simon Stephens’s new play, beautifully directed by Katie Mitchell, charts the muddy relationships of people in and around child care in a triptych of inter-linked plays that are as haunting as the distant drone of the aircraft over Heathrow, where the plays are also set. People come and go, definitely not talking of Michelangelo.
First, in an overgrown conservatory of weeds and broken glass, fussing old Frieda (Linda Bassett) says farewell to foster son, Harry (Tom Sturridge), who is jumpy about going to Canada. He killed his best friend in a car crash, he has history as a pyromaniac, and he’s obsessed with the ecological disaster, he says, of farming.
Frieda says that Sian, another of her foster children, was never really happy. In the last play, in a warehouse right under the flight path, we see the upshot: Amanda Hale’s bossy child-trafficking agent Sian is giving another teacher, Angus Wright’s wrecked Jonathan, a tough time over the Filipino nine-year old girl he’s ordered up after seven years of trying to adopt with his wife.
So, a farewell to start with, and a tentative greeting at the end. But Stephens seems to be saying nothing deep or lasting is guaranteed in these adoptions of convenience. In highlighting various problems he is inadvertently arguing for natural parenthood. Damage is going to be done on both sides of these unnatural equations.
But in the middle play, the strongest panel in the triptych, Stephens touches on the sensitive area of how irreproachable should anyone be in order to oversee children. For most of us, this is a no-brainer. Joe McInnes’s sex bomb lady copper is a former heroin addict and part-time porn star, and she’s in child protection.
There’s nothing to indicate how good or bad she is at her job, but Stephens may be suggesting we’re all entitled to some privacy with dark spots. Lisa wants Mark to have blindfolded sex and to hit her hard. He’s so shocked that he does so, viciously, across the face. She reveals that she doesn’t have sex with her partner.
Mark, carefully and humorously played by Paul Ready, is on his way to Minneapolis on a Fulbright scholarship, and turns out to be the car accident boy’s teacher; he was his star pupil. Both teachers have been damaged, or at least deeply affected, by doing their jobs.
Sian asks Jonathan why anyone would want to raise a child in this world. It’s a good question if you don’t mind signing up to pessimism. All of Stephens’s characters are fretting at the end of some emotional tether, and the plays keep you interested.
A palpable poetic tension runs through Mitchell’s discreetly thought-provoking production, with planes rumbling away, and a policewoman only capable of prosecuting her affair by turning up the pop music and unexpectedly quoting Charles Dickens in Great Expectations: “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.”
4 stars Ian Shuttleworth , The Financial Times, Wednesday 7th April 2011
I have long admired playwright Simon Stephens’ skill in creating unremittingly bleak portraits of ordinary people and then, right at the end, offering a glimmer of hope – not of artificial redemption, just the faint prospect that characters may stop so compulsively screwing up their own and each other’s lives. Wastwater offers a new experience: the bleakness without the hope. This work still speaks to me, but it does not sing.
The publicity material describes the play accurately as an “elliptical triptych”. We see three scenes, each about 30 minutes long, each self-contained – although oblique, incidental links are made between the different scenes’ characters. In the first, Harry (Tom Sturridge, who made a powerful debut in Stephens’ Punk Rock) is taking leave of his foster-mother Frieda (Linda Bassett) before he flies to Vancouver, to some unspecified “centre”; he appears to have a job there, but seems so unsocialised that he could as easily be an inmate.
In the second, Mark (Paul Ready) and Lisa (Jo McInnes) meet in a hotel room for an illicit tryst. Lisa’s revelations about drugs, sex and violence shock Mark but do not altogether repel him.
In the third, Sian (Amanda Hale) plays thoroughly unsettling power games with Jonathan (Angus Wright) in a disused warehouse or sub-garage before a people-trafficking transaction takes place. It does not matter whether the motive is sexual or not, the commodification of the human consignment is what is salient. Stephens may intend his usual chink of hope, but I can espy none.
The scenes are played out simultaneously at disparate locations near Heathrow’s Terminal 5; at roughly the same points in each scene, we hear the sound of jets overhead and the lights momentarily dim. Director Katie Mitchell turns in one of her rigorously unshowy productions.
Wastwater is the deepest lake in, and nowhere near Heathrow. It is, according to one of the characters, a favoured spot for dumping corpses. That is the sense I take away from these scenes of disconnection and awkwardness that escalate to unpleasantness and repulsion: the deeper one goes, the darker it gets, and there is nothing to find but bodies. 4 stars Michael Coveney, Whatsonstage.com, Tuesday 6th April 2011
The depths of Wastwater in the Lake District are a metaphor of hidden secrets and emotional undercurrents in Simon Stephens’ enthralling new triptych of inter-linked plays, directed with calm, unshowy assurance by Katie Mitchell, and beautifully acted.
The common theme is that of child care in the community: a foster mother (Linda Bassett) says goodbye to her troubled charge, Harry (Tom Sturridge), who is catching a bus to take a flight to Vancouver.
Then an art teacher, Mark (Paul Ready) and a married off-duty policewoman in child protection (Jo McInnes), with a steamy past in pornography, prepare to have sex in a hotel bedroom; another teacher, Jonathan (Angus Wright), is quizzed by a vile child trafficking agent, Sian (Amanda Hale), before meeting his little Filipino purchase.
The latter case is only one of adoption, not sexual kidnap, or at least we hope it is. Nothing is quite right between any of these characters, but this uncertainty is all part of the texture of their relationships, which are part mercenary, part provisional, all in transit. Suitably enough, each play takes place near Heathrow, and dialogue is punctuated by low rumbles and loud take-offs.
Mark taught Harry’s best friend who died in a car crash. Sian is another of Frieda’s foster children. But the closeness of the plays only underlines the distance between people, and this melancholy of separation is vividly expressed in Lizzie Clachan’s superb design: an abandoned conservatory, then a large impersonal bedroom, finally an echoing brick warehouse with steel girders.
With the distance goes the violence: accidental violence in the first play, a masochistic undertow in the second – Jo McInnes is literally panting with expectation throughout before demanding to be hit (well, Stephens does have to keep an eye on his German market) – and intellectual bullying and taunting by the agent in the third.
The plays exercise an insidious fascination and touch many an exposed nerve in our views about how we look out for our children and what we should expect (or not expect) of those charged with caring for them in public. Much of the evening is shocking, even upsetting. But it’s seriously written and seriously enjoyable.
Thu 31 Mar, 7:30pm Fri 1 Apr, 7:30pm Sat 2 Apr, 7:30pm Mon 4 Apr, 7:30pm Wed 6 Apr, 7:30pm Thu 7 Apr, 7:30pm Fri 8 Apr, 7:30pm Sat 9 Apr, 3:30pm Sat 9 Apr, 7:30pm Thu 14 Apr, 3:30pm Sat 16 Apr, 3:30pm Thu 21 Apr, 3:30pm Sat 23 Apr, 3:30pm Thu 28 Apr, 3:30pm Sat 30 Apr, 3:30pm Thu 5 May, 3:30pm Sat 7 May, 3:30pm
Thu 31 Mar, 7:30pm Fri 1 Apr, 7:30pm Sat 2 Apr, 7:30pm Mon 4 Apr, 7:30pm
Tue 5 Apr, 7:00pm
Sat 9 Apr, 3:30pm Sat 16 Apr, 3:30pm Sat 23 Apr, 3:30pm Sat 30 Apr, 3:30pm Sat 7 May, 3:30pm
Tue 12 Apr, 7:30pm
Thu 14 Apr, 3:30pm Thu 21 Apr, 3:30pm Thu 28 Apr, 3:30pm Thu 5 May, 3:30pm
Tue 19 Apr, 7:30pm
Audio Described Performance
Sat 7 May, 3:30pm
Writer Simon Stephens and director Katie Mitchell in discussion with the Royal Court’s Diversity Associate, Ola Animashawun.… Read more