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Review: Drip (Bush Theatre)

Tom Wells and Matthew Robins present a one-man musical that tackles synchronised swimming and the pressures of friendship

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Andrew Finnigan in Drip
© Sam Taylor

As any teenager will tell you, the social awkwardness of the swimming pool is a minefield of self-consciousness and creeping inadequacy. So it is in Drip for 15 year-old Liam, as he conducts a school assembly about his recent attempt to become a synchronised swimmer with best mate Caz. The only hitch: Liam can't swim. And he has a major crush on the lifeguard.

There's charm by the bucketload in Script Club and Boundless Theatre's one-man musical, with words by Tom Wells and music by Matthew Robins. Performed entirely by Andrew Finnigan with his trusty guitar, smatterings of audience interaction and a host of props (at one point we're told to wear ponchos), we get a first-hand account of Liam's nautical journey of self discovery, told as if in front of a classroom of year 11 students (the tech desk is being operated by his teacher).

Finnigan makes for an endearing narrator and protagonist, perfectly capturing the stop-start-y discomfiture of a schoolboy fessing up to emotional experiences he might have rather kept buried. He lends the show a much-needed sense of authenticity, plucking his guitar with that sense of gusto only a teen could muster. Director Jane Fallowfield knows how to play to the piece's strengths, with a few choice few props (a small windchime, held by an audience member, is used to signal the presence of Liam's crush, Josh) helping to create a broader sense of immersive scale.

But for all that, Wells' show feels thin on substance and often drifts through Liam's roughly sketched teenage angst. His close friend Caz, a vital character in his story (and ending up as the reason why Liam gives his presentation), never feels all that present or well defined, meaning the piece ends up trickling along without ever making too much of a splash. Liam's on-off flirting with lifeguard Josh is also something of a non-starter, washed away before ever really sinking in.

On the composition side, Robins' music is fun, but apart from a closing number is somewhat forgettable, adding little to the overall experience. Adam Foley's lighting does a remarkable amount within the confines of the Bush's ever-versatile studio space.

Just in case you need more festive cheer, the ending is as cockle-warming as they come, with bunting, a quirky sing-a-long and an uplifting confetti-stuffed conclusion to see the audience out onto the streets of Shepherd's Bush. Certainly a bit slender but still largely well-intentioned, Drip ends up feeling, well, nice.

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