Although Archimedes’ Principle is a play by catalan writer Josep Maria Miró i Coromina (translation by Dustin Langan), it’s very much set in a world where the Jimmy Saville revelations loom large. Parenting fear, children getting a glimpse of an adult world they don’t understand, monsters that don’t lark in the dark but feed on trust, gestures of warmth and comfort or is it something else? It’s a heady mix of emotions ready to ignite and multiply at the slightest provocation.
Two swimming instructors – and the manager of the swimming pool they work at – have a perfectly ordinary morning. Lessons and water and kids doing what kids do. At midday, a few random words set off a chain reaction. By the end of the day, their lives are in disarray. The play captures the ordinariness of the day, and the heartbeat of a moment when things change course, and the domino effect that follows. Its unusual structure – when time folds onto itself – allows for the story to play as a mystery. The production, directed with assurance and clarity by Marta Noguera-Cuevas, is beautiful in illuminating the moments. I particularly loved the water sounds echoing from the pool, giving the place an eery quality.
Caught in the middle of this nightmare, Brandon has his natural confidence eroded, panic creeping in. Lee Knight does a superb job capturing both the swagger and the paralysing fear, defiance and disappointment. He also projects a diffident aloof quality which means that Brandon, for all his likeable personality, remains private and unknowable. Is that why he pays the price? (This is the second play in recent weeks that poses interesting questions about privacy: we increasingly regard it as suspect, an indulgence rather than a right, a quality to be questioned and scorched and condemned at the first opportunity).
Kathryn Worth as Anna projected a stiffness entirely appropriate to the character, but her performance was largely one note with hysteria colouring much of her reactions. Matt Bradley-Robinson did a fine job playing “nice” Matt, the man who doesn’t want to be involved or take sides.
Archimedes’ Principle is a thoroughly engaging experience, thought-provoking without being dry, and with a subject preoccupying hearts and minds. Several years ago I remember a conversation with a journalist friend, who told me he ‘d never allow himself to be alone with nephews and nieces for fear of made up allegations of abuse. It sounded crazy then, and it still sounds crazy now, but that sentiment feels more recognisable than ever.
P.S. This was my first time at the Park Theatre and I was very impressed: nice theatrical space, lively and friendly bar, and very close to the tube station. I will certainly visit again.