Plimmer Steps, Above Leroy's Bar, Wellington

18/03/2019 - 19/03/2019

NZ Fringe Festival 2019

Production Details

The Extraordinary Story of A Very Ordinary Spy

WATER by Mark Langham is a brand new play telling the true story of WW1 German Spy, Hans Lody.

A fast moving adventure, the story tells of how a young fragile man unexpectedly entered the shady world of espionage in WW1 and, although an unmitigated disaster as a Spy, proved that politeness, courtesy and decency transcend any conflict.

Featuring 5 actors playing some 45 parts (!) this play tells the quite extraordinary story of a very ordinary spy!!!

2 Plimmer Steps (above Leroys Bar)
Monday 18 & Tuesday 19 March 2019
General Admission $22.00
Concession $15.00
Fringe Addict $15.00

CARL HANS LODY: Stephen Lloyd-Coombs
46 other characters played by:
Elizabeth MacGregor
Lib Campbell
Lachlan Edmonds-Munro
Roger Gimblett

Theatre ,

Solid writing dextrously delivered - but is it Fringe?

Review by Barnaby Olson 19th Mar 2019

I know absolutely nothing about writer/director Mark Langham’s NZ Fringe Festival debut Water, as I enter the upstairs venue at Leroy’s on the Plimmer Steps. As a bit of a ring-in for this one, and with no programme information readily available – in my mind not a criticism – I rely on the environment more than usual to give me some hints. The venue is set up like a 1920s cabaret bar, everything is black or draped in black, and there’s gentle jazz music playing in the background. It feels intimate.

Water begins simply: five actors take to the stage in chorus, before one of them – Stephen Lloyd Coombs – steps forward to play our protagonist: Carl Hans Lody. Lody is our narrator, speaking to the room and detailing his real-life journey from his childhood to his arrest – Water’s starting point. In between a huge amount of ground is covered, the most relevant of which is Lody’s career as a makeshift German spy. As a multi-national of sorts, Lody falls into espionage, and seems to be loved and respected wherever he goes.

The writing is solid. Tonally it reminds me a little of The Sun Also Rises, which I loved when it came to NZ as part of last year’s NZ Festival, insomuch as it is verbally dense and clearly dated but not in a way that makes it inaccessible.  

The performers, led by Lloyd Coombs, generally work well together, the pace is good throughout, and all the actors clearly have the verbal dexterity to deal with the density and rhythms of Langham’s text.

I am a little confused with the accent work. Convincing American and Scottish accents are affected when the text asks for it but English accents seem to be standing in for German, and perhaps others. There is one scene where (I think) a German and an Englishman talk on the phone, but both sound English, and everyone at my table is confused. 

The main problem I have with Water – and I admit upfront that I’m expressing a bit of bias here – is that it doesn’t feel Fringe-y. Its format is very traditional: our narrator leads us through his life and his journey is illustrated by scenes that colour it. For my tastes, it’s absolutely crying out for some theatrical divergence; some additional forms, or design languages, or something that might bring a little more capacity for surprise to the table.

Water feels like a test run for a show that you could take, throw some money behind and play to decent houses in Circa One for a month with relative ease. The script is good enough, the story holds us, and I think it would be successful in that context. It may just be that I’m judging it against a set of criteria formulated specifically for a Festival that celebrates being a little further away from the theatrical mainstream. Simply put: it feels like a weird fit.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council