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Review: The Same Deep Water As Me at the Donmar Warehouse


The bookish, bespectacled, 'Where's Wally?' appearance of playwright Nick Payne seems incongruous with what comes out of the mouths of his characters and one character in particular in his new play The Same Deep Water As Me.

Kevin (Marc Wootton) uses profanity to a degree that might even impress Malcolm Tucker (although his usage isn't as clever). He's an old school friend of solicitor Andrew (Daniel Mays) who works with Barry (Nigel Lindsay) at a low-rent law firm specialising in 'no win, no fee' compensation cases, and he has a plan. He's heard about fake compensation claims, accidents which are engineered in order to extract money for injuries sustained and he asks Andrew to help.

A web of lies is woven so that dishonesty becomes the new norm and morality becomes skewered to justify their actions. Those who might challenge the new status quo are kept in the dark.

There was an occasion during the first half when laughter rippled around the Donmar's auditorium like a slowly growing rumble of thunder as the audience caught onto the joke. Such is the cleverness of Payne's writing that he puts an image in your head that might take a moment or too to really hit home and be enjoyed, in this instance: "He was sweating like a dyslexic on Countdown".

It is refreshing to watch something that is laden with contemporary references and is contemporary in subject matter. And for three quarters of the play it all works really, really well as the fake injury claims scam is put into practice and the scammers manouevre through some of the unexpected hiccups such as a contested claim.

But towards the end it runs a little out of steam. Some of the points Payne makes feel heavy-handed while some of the ideas feel under-developed.

He does in the main resist the typical stereo type of lawyers. Both solicitors have their problems and one at least has some degree of integrity. There is a superb courtroom scene with Isabella Laughland delivering an applause-earning speech in the dock as one of the scammers' victims.

However, elsewhere the relationship between Andrew and Jennifer (Niky Wardley) doesn't wholly convince or feel necessary and as such weakens the ending.

Great performances all round and plaudits too must go to the staging. There was a particularly impressive leaky ceiling during the final scene with the rhythmic drip of water into a metal bucket against a soundscape of heavy rain. In fact it was so impressive for a moment I thought it was a real leak.

It feels a long time since the Donmar put on something so contemporary and it was really good to see. This was a preview performance and the production runs at the Donmar Warehouse until 28 September.


An audience connection and a future connection (just because). First the audience: Sienna Miller was in to the see the play with fiance Tom Sturridge and Ms Miller has of course played Mr W's girlfriend in the film Layer Cake.

And the future? Well a bit cheeky although they may have already met for the read-through but Daniel Mays is going to be in Mojo with Mr W in October.

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