Birmingham’s very own theatre society ‘Watch This’ has come together for their second original play of the year, presenting us with Jonathan Chadwick’s creation ‘Saturation’. The premise of the play focuses on four deep sea divers who lose contact with their handlers, and how they continue, trapped in the walls of a saturation chamber.
The play opens with the four divers on stage, frozen in action, as the handler and his consultant (played by Tom Thornhill and Kaleb D’Aguilar) describe the problem, to which the drama ensues. This technique was used at various times throughout the play, enhancing the idea of the power of the handlers, as they look into this little box, which they are in control of. As an audience, too, we feel as if we are prying into this world where the characters are powerless and without contact, providing a background for the growing unrest that the trapped divers present.
As the play continues, we get to know the four divers. The minimal casting of ‘Saturation’ deepened the desired feeling of tension and entrapment, and each character was excellently set apart, each with their own traits, weaknesses, and hidden fears. Dan, Ed, Mike, and Harry share only their profession, and in a play so small and contained, the power of their characters was the framework around which the play was built upon. Praise must be given to the four actors, Fionn Creber, Ben Evans, Will Melhuish, and Lenny Turner, as they excellently brought to life a play in which the characters’ relationships and interactions are focal.
Credit must also be given to the tech team behind ‘Saturation’. The scenes were woven together through sound bites, music, and lighting changes, which grounded the play in a realistic setting, linking the action of the chamber to the action of the outside world.
The small Basement Rehearsal Room was an excellent space for ‘Saturation’ to be performed, as it provided an intimate space which reflected the themes of uncomfortable closeness and tension.
Despite the play’s short length, it delves deep into the deep-rooted doubts, tensions, and stories of the four divers, in particular the back-handed friendship between the natural lead Dan, and the troubled Mike. ‘Saturation’ does this with a natural pace, both a credit to the actors and to Jonathan Chadwick, the writer and director of the piece.
Overall, ‘Saturation’ was an excellent example of well executed characterisation, simple and successful staging, and clever writing. This was a brilliant performance from the Birmingham students and I would encourage everyone to go and see the student-led theatre on offer.