Review: WaterFall

by Lynn on November 1, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Factory Theatre Mainspace, produced by Theatre Gargantua, Toronto, Ont. Playing until November 5, 2023

Written by Heather Marie Annis and Michael Gordon Spence with Muhaddisah, Andrew Soutter and Trisha Talreja.

Directed by Jacquie P.A. Thomas

Set by Michael Gordon Spence

Lighting and projections by Laird MacDonald

Sound by Heidi Chan and Tori Morrison

Costumes by Ottilie Mason

Cast: Heather Marie Annis


Andrew Soutter

Michael Gordon Spence

Trisha Talreja

Breathtaking in every single way: creatively, intellectually, socially responsibly and artistically. Par for the course for Theatre Gargantua.

From the show blurb: Inspired by the true account of the first underwater explorers to travel 11 km down the bottom of Challenger Deep, WaterFall is the story of a team of scientists who endeavor to be among the very few who have braved the least explored place on the planet. What lures them to the hadal zone, however, is the very thing that also holds their deepest fears. These characters push themselves to the limit of what humans can endure in order to understand and discover what is beyond.

There has never been life on land without life in the water and yet the water on our planet, key to every living system, is under threat. This imagistic piece weaves together the science, politics and mythology of water. Using Gargantua’s signature mix of theatricality, poetry, technology, and live music, WaterFall is a timely, poetic warning from the deep.”

The Production. When you enter the Factory Theatre Mainspace there is a projection across the whole back of the theatre of waves sliding up on a shore and receding. It appears to be an arial view. Accompanying that projection is the sound of the water splashing onto the land and receding. The visual sets the tone; water, its constant ebbing and flowing on land. There are two guitars and one banjo positioned along the front of the stage. At times the cast plays the instruments, creating music, sound and effects for the show. Three large ‘wheeled’ tube-like structures are on the stage—they can be rolled, maneuvered and positioned upright and used to set location and create a sense of confinement and openness.

Theatre Gargantua is a movement-based company—mixing dance, movement and athleticism to tell the story. Initially we are given facts, either verbally or in projections around the walls of the stage. The body is made of 60% water. Water covers ¾ of the earth’s surface. You can’t survive more than 2-4 days without water. When the Titanic was found, they didn’t find any bones. The bones of the deceased dissolved in the water at that depth. That gave me pause.  

Then the company goes into the human connection to the water, the story beyond the facts. The scientists on this expedition are exploring the depths of the ocean to discover its secrets. This is new territory. Two scientists go down in a small tube structure to observe and take notes while two scientists remain on a boat on the surface to be in constant contact. The two characters who submerge sit in the rolled structure, a small light is illuminated overhead. The audience gets the sense of the quiet, dark and confinement in that ‘tube’ structure. One can’t help but think of that horrible accident a few months ago when millionaires paid to down in a submersible to see the Titanic and it imploded because it was unsafe. The scientists in the play WaterFall tookevery precaution and safety measures. But then something happens and one grips the armrest.

The collective work on the play is detailed, nuanced and artful. Each character on this expedition had some incident in their lives that made them either afraid or terrified of water. They all overcame it because their curiosity about what was down there was too great to be dissuaded by fear.  

WaterFall does not harp or hector about the pollution in our water. A comment is that if there is plenty of water then one disregards its importance. If there is a lack of it, there is conflict to get it. What WaterFall does is make us aware of water’s mystery, power and effect on us all. Director Jacquie P.A. Thomas uses her bracing imagination and sense of imagery to create a compelling production about an important subject. The cast is uniformly strong. They will not let you be complacent. Stunning work, as always from Theatre Gargantua.

Theatre Gargantua presents:

Plays until Nov. 5, 2023.

Running time: 80 minutes. (no intermission)

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