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Water Fools Fails To Make a Splash

Jonathan Smith just doesn't really get it

Published on July 22nd 2013.

Water Fools Fails To Make a Splash

FRENCH Theatre Company, Ilotopie, have performed a peculiar one-off water show on Salford’s glowing Quays that, while thoroughly original, failed to really captivate or ignite imagination on the night.

As the Noel Coward show tune goes, ‘There's always something fishy about the French.’ Never more true than here.

Promising a ‘magical experience of light, laughter and lasting memories’ as part of a ‘breath-taking theatrical performance’, you couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed by the actual event.

Despite a 45 minute delay, the crowded banks of the canal patiently waited to be amazed by the acclaimed display. Finally a little blue car whizzed into vision to signify the show’s start, buzzing past the crowds it was reminiscent of Roger Moore’s amphibious car in The Spy Who Loved MeAfter a couple of minutes it spluttered to a halt leading the car’s driver, a ghostly Beetlejuice lookalike, to assess the damage of the smoking bonnet.

Soon enough the waterway began to flood with an increasingly odd array of floating people and vehicles: a dustbin man, a lady with a pram and even a giant bed being rowed right through the middle of it all.

Although these figures appeared to inexplicably glide on the water’s surface, it was clear to us cynics that they were on large floats with propulsion pushing them about.

Also, Father Christmas and magic aren’t real, sorry kids.

Fireworks at Water FoolsFireworks at Water Fools

As the show flowed along it became abundantly clear that the narrative was to remain irrelevant and unexplained, leaving the water born theatrics to do the talking.

Beetlejuice’s hair suddenly went up in a blaze, amusingly unbeknown to him, before an even weirder raft of vessels came into view. This time they weren’t examples of everyday folk but inhumane devil like creatures straight from Milton’s Paradise Lost, complete with flaming tridents.

These hellish characters were then joined by a long boat carrying a jester and a naked blue man parading round in golden high heels.

As the Noel Coward show tune goes, ‘There's always something fishy about the French.’ Never more true than here.

At this point in the show chaos descended on the Quays as boats swirled, a woman with a huge bellowing skirt skimmed on by and fireworks launched into overload. It was a dazzling spectacle, but not in a gawp with amazement kind of way, rather a befuddled search for what was actually going on... someone please tell us what’s going on.

I’m sure the performance had an underlying arty theme, but to the viewing public there was little to understand from this bizarre mishmash playing out in front of them. It was all fairly incomprehensible.

Torch-erd soulTorch-erd soul

Ilotopie had choreographed the spectacle impressively, but failed to explain the thinking behind it all, thus removing any satisfaction greater than aesthetically.

In fact, the most palpable tension came from the slight apprehension that the gold high-heel wearing naked blue man might actually singe his genitalia on the surrounding fire and sparklers.

The late introduction of a car pulling a caravan suggested a need to just throw everything on at once, go for broke, quantity over quality came to mind.

After around 45 minutes and a magnitude of pyrotechnics (none of which scorched any goolies) the show came to an end, handily announced by a lady bellowing through the speakers. Handy because it was unclear to most that it had actually finished.

The show’s not over until the tannoy lady bellows.

Despite some sexually suggestive rudder work by the devilish creatures, Water Fools was a typical family event (and a free one at that). A visual treat of wonder for children but lacking enough ingenuity to appeal to the masses.

Falling somewhere between the cheeky fun of the circus and the grandeur of something more traditionally theatrical, Water Fools ended up being neither here nor there, a jumble of watery weirdness that could have done with a plot to captivate for the long term.

The watery novelty of it all soon wore off. Bruno Schnebelin’s vision was all just too far adrift to live long in the memory.

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