If Tub signifies anything it’s that human civilisation has officially run out of viable metaphors for love. It’s love, OK? That’s what the bathtub represents, that’s what Woman (Olivia Vinall) is drowning in, that’s what she’s searching for deep down, that’s what the repeated statements and questions are all about. There, twenty minutes of your precious life saved. If you want to experience the play yourself fill a bathtub up with water, drop some random items in there and spend twenty minutes staring at a photo of an ex-loved one, weeping as you half-heartedly masturbate and try to remember the good times.
‘It’s not there. Is it?’ the play asks in a totally non-pretentious way. Yes, it is there. It’s there from the start. Just because you take 20 minutes to finish your sentences doesn’t mean it isn’t patently obvious from the off what it is you’re trying to say. It’s bound to be about love or some other ‘deep’ emotion because it’s conceptual student drama and making it about the worsening economic situation in Burkina Faso would be stupid.
Tub takes the form of ambiguous statement from Woman followed by ambiguous statement from Man (Matthew Hassall) followed by blackout then rinse and repeat, possibly with an extra line of dialogue or perhaps a glare if it’s a good four seconds. It builds at a frustratingly slow pace, by the time the actors get to the end the audience are already there, tapping their feet and looking at their watches, while those that care feel uneasy about the fact that Woman has been physically forced by Man to take his love.
Is Man real? Is it all in her mind? Is he the Man she really loves? The actors haven’t given the audience anywhere near enough material to make us ponder these questions, let alone come up with answers. It’s totally shallow, but no less deadly for that. It’s possible to drown in an inch of water after all.
Full credit though has to go to Bathtub, which played its part with professionalism and aplomb. From its opening retching up of Woman to the fact that it managed to hide all those items so cunningly away in its enamel belly, it never once seemed phased or put off by the fact that props were being pulled out of its arse like it was a device in a Paul Daniels magic show. Instead it proved itself to be a valuable central addition to the piece. Would the show have suffered much if the actors had slipped out during a blackout and the audience were left to sit and enjoy the gentle sloshing sound of the water? Doubtful.