Drowning – Pleasance Courtyard

Directed by Stephen Ross

Written by Jessica Ross

By 2008, all four of the Lainz Angels of Death have been released from prison. These four Austrian women, nurse’s aides at the Geriatriezentrum am Wienerwald in Vienna took the lives of 49 (officially), men and women. Labelling them as mercy killings, the women would gain a new method of life-taking, switching from morphine overdoses to Drowning their patients.

There is an attempt to inject dark humour. The best laughs are often the ones which are followed by an inhalation of self-censorship. At the rotten core of Drowning, is an inspection of the unimaginable – an examination of evil. Or at least, it attempts to do so. Its humour is one-note, tasteless but not in the grotesque fashion, more just in the dead-flat department.

The golden rule is show, don’t tell. This wobbles in Ross’ script. The characterisation of the four women is unbalanced, perhaps we’re merely craving more but the depth isn’t as profound as it could be. When delivering monologues, all the performers try to give their character justice. It’s incredibly ham-fisted, however, with all the caricatures present: A drunken nurse, A pill-popper and the seductive, alluring temptress.

Marrying colour with death is quite an inventive stance to take, especially given the pale nature of the condition. Drowning, with it’s smothering blues is a visual production. It’s intense though, bathing us rather than finding a balance in hue.

What little props are available, get put to canny effect. In particular, four bathtubs – solemn reminders of the nurses’ methods of ‘mercy’. There are minds behind Drowning which should enable it to work, but this cannot save poor writing. The two-dimensional characters feel like they’re only the cover art for a far more interesting story.

Drowning never attempts to vilify these women. They are not martyrs, nor does it paint them as monsters. They are human, but insultingly they are stereotypes. Drowning is a Fringe production which had promise but severely lacks direction. In a Festival littering itself with the hot-commodity that is death and serial killers, this one has little life to offer.

Tickets are available from: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/drowning


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