Review – Walking on Water, White Bear

Saturday 19 January 2008

What someone ought to do is to write a play which is set in a really naff pub – one with multiple television screens showing Manchester City playing West Ham, Phil Collins videos and miscellaneous TV programmes (all at the same time).  One where a request for a glass of red wine is met with a raised eyebrow and delivered in the form of a screwtop bottle of the kind embraced by in-flight caterers.

It would feature clichéd pub characters straight out of Central Casting – the garrulous, drunken-yet-harmless Irishman who is a friend to everyone, a couple of local salesmen getting rowdier by the minute in their cheap suits, the over-done blousy matron perched atop her bar stool.

And then someone should put it on at The White Bear Theatre in Kennington. Audiences would be bowled over by the attention to detail in the pub as they passed through it to get through to the tiny theatre behind. They would marvel at the almost humorous disinterest exhibited by the barman when trying to buy a drink in the interval. “Why!” they would exclaim upon seeing the state of the toilets, “It’s quite extraordinary the lengths they have gone to in immersing the audience in a total environment. It certainly gives Masque of the Red Death a run for its money.”

However, for now, one must content oneself with seeing Walking on Water by Paul Minx, a story of four women (three generations) and a terrible family secret (bet you can’t guess what THAT is!).

Fiona Mountford gave it four stars in the Evening Standard, praising its ability to make you care about the characters –

“In the hierarchy of theatrical values, too often overlooked – or perhaps looked down upon – is the ability to tell a compelling story whose conclusion truly matters to an audience.”

Yes indeed, but it’s still not really a four star play in the Whingers’ humble opinion so there goes our policy of chasing only enthusiastically reviewed plays in 2008.

It is an absorbing play (no mean achievement given its length) but it’s not without its faults – an ample helping of rather leaden metaphors and a quite puzzling scene in which the formerly barking mad mother (WEW fave Susannah York) becomes sane and lucid before reverting to type.

The cast are all pretty good and it’s certainly more agreeable sitting through it than it would be sitting in the White Bear pub for two hours plus.

Mind you,  the wine was only £2.95 so it may well turn out to be a WEW regular haunt. Next time you’re there, watch out for two drunken, garrulous-but-harmless, blousy men in cheap suits perched atop bar stools.

10 Responses to “Review – Walking on Water, White Bear”


  1. The play you’re looking for is “Two” by Jim Cartwright. It premiered in 1989 in Bolton.

  2. Simon Treves Says:

    No, it’s Roy williams’ Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads.

    But I think the Whingers were being i-ron-ic, Ian.

  3. Simon Treves Says:

    I just realised that – by inference – I was being rude about Roy Williams’ great play. Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea (minima) culpa.

  4. Helen Smith Says:

    Yet another beautifully judged post from the Whingers. Welcome back after your short hiatus. Please don’t give up blogging.

    I must admit, when I saw a sign outside the White Bear in Kennington saying ‘Walking on Water’, I thought it was a warning about the state of the toilets. I did wonder why you spent so long in the Gents at our recent outing there. When you returned to the bar – eventually – and talked long and lovingly about your admiration for Susannah York, I merely assumed that you had slipped and banged your head on the urinals, provoking the early onset of theatrical anecdotage.

    Well, now I know.

  5. heoftheonstagexanaduseating Says:

    Yes not the nicest theatre venue is it…..Hope you’ll be seeing
    The Sea and keeping up the theme of watery theatre productions. Keep up the good work, nothing like two wino whingers to brighten a grey Sunday !


  6. “a story of four women (three generations) and a terrible family secret (bet you can’t guess what THAT is!).”

    Was one of them abused by their father, or did one of them get pregnant and was raised as a daughter by her grandmother to protect her real mother from being made an outcast by society?

    Are there any other secrets families keep? I honestly can’t think of any.


  7. @ Andrew Haydon: quod erat demonstrandum.

  8. jmc Says:

    I am glad to see that, in a world of constant change and instability, the White Bear is not subject to the law of change…


  9. Not pregnant *by* the father? Shurely not that!?!?!!?

  10. Andrew Field Says:

    Forget, Andrew, it’s Chinatown…


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