Married couple Clair (Alix Addinall) and Kit (Kitty Ford) navigate life in South Shields, while student Fish (Roma Ellis) explores their identityHarry Taylor

Walking into the beautiful venue of the Old Divinity School, I was met with a blue-lit stage, a washing line, and the three actors of Out of Water staring blissfully ahead, unaware of the audience walking in or a projection of people swimming behind them. Music filled the rest of the space. This is the perfect opening scene: it gives almost nothing away, but its beauty is lulling and wholesome, complementing the show which is about to begin.

“We see two similar stories from different perspectives”

The audience is transported to the staff room of a school in the north-east town of South Shields. Claire (Alix Addinall), a newly settled southerner from London starts her new job as a teacher in “requires improvement” Academy. Others constantly remind her that she “must love a challenge”, and she faces her new job with confidence accordingly, ready to help the pupil-premium students navigate their way through life. She launches an immersion programme, which allows students to present a topic of their choice to the whole school. Fish (Roma Ellis), a non-binary student involved in this programme, dives into their project focused on cold-water swimming. They discuss long solo sea swims and the evolutionary similarities between humans and fish, showing their all-encompassing love for the beauty of being underwater.

The production design brings the audience into a dreamy underwater worldIzzy Grout

Claire and Fish form an unintentional bond, and whilst helping Fish navigate their way through school, Claire also faces challenges with her identity. She is pregnant and has a wife Kit (Kitty Ford) but throughout the play feels uncomfortable, not admitting to her socially perceived “unique” situation. From receiving homophobic remarks in the staffroom to aggression in the local shop, she hides her relationship from the community. As a result, we see two similar stories from different perspectives: stories of fitting in, acceptance, navigating sexuality and gender identity, and the role of the family.


Mountain View

The Children crackles with tension

The acting was of the highest quality, and all the actors were equally talented. My favourite scenes included Fish’s abstract swimming scene and Claire’s emotionally impactful call to her mum on the phone. The dynamics were touching, especially the one between Kit and Claire. Whilst love is obviously present, it is not the main theme of the relationship. As an audience we see some really raw moments, touching on the struggles of parenting as two mums, developing trust between one another, and withstanding homophobia from the people in their town and even their families. I particularly enjoyed the asides taken by each character used to describe the scenes. This was incredibly effective when trying to set the scene of the chaotic classroom dynamics or the tense family party politics with only three actors present. However, I did feel that this tactic was a little bit overused. The audience had to pay careful attention to the detail of the speech with little visual stimulation, making it sometimes tiresome to engage with the performance. Overall, I think there could have been more creative movement to complement some of the speech-heavy scenes.

“The incorporation of a video projection made the play feel four-dimensional”

Despite this, the overall creative direction from Bronagh Leneghan was excellent. She developed an interesting multi-roling of one character, signified by the exchange of one jacket between the three actors, and the incorporation of a video projection, neatly crafted by Emily Morley, made the play feel four-dimensional and slightly more engaging than an average theatre experience. Furthermore, the scene changes were immaculate, from the smooth lighting changes to the confidence of scene transitions of the actors on stage - an impressive feat for the first night.

Out of Water is a raw and insightful exploration of identity, a heartfelt story that I’m sure many can relate to, and a thoroughly enjoyable watch. It is playing in the Old Divinity School until 25th February.