Voyeuristic, raw and relatable: Why seeing The Pool should be on your summer to-do list
When done well, theatre can serve as a conduit into our curiosity and invites us to rediscover the richness of human connection and experience.  

Picture this: you’re sitting poolside, wearing a headset, and you’re happily eavesdropping on the conversations happening around you. You’re listening to a mother and her adult daughter who has moved back home and has never learnt to swim, the manager facing an employee’s mistake, two teenagers who probably should be doing their homework, and various other people who find refuge and a sense of comfort among strangers in communal spaces. And, you may even feel a spray of water when a kid does a bombie in front of your ‘seat’.

In the unique upcoming play The Pool, writer Steve Rodgers and director Kate Champion invite you, the public, to do just that — to listen in on various conversations that explore the complexity of life, forming what Champion describes as a “pool of humanity”, and experience theatre, differently.

“It’s a beautifully crafted ‘slice of life’ play, set in and around a public pool. In this case, “the beautiful Bold Park Aquatic Centre,” says Champion.

It’s a rare opportunity to take a look into the intricacies of other people’s lives, peeking into the seemingly small moments that often escape our notice: the subtle nuances in the way people express themselves, the significance of small gestures, and the ephemeral nature of fleeting emotions. By getting insight into the lives and perspectives of others, we learn to appreciate and understand those around us.

“Often, a stranger’s story is uncannily like aspects of your own. It’s exactly what I love about theatre — it connects us to strangers in unexpected ways and often helps us feel less alone with both our everyday challenges as well as our bigger ‘what is it all about’ questions,” says Champion.

When writing the play, Rodgers interviewed a diverse range of regular pool goers. After choosing the stories that resonated with him the most, he adapted and intertwined them to form the characters.

“We love authenticity and representing the real lives of everyday people through theatre,” says Champion.

This isn't the first time Rogers and Champion have put their heads together. Their collaboration began 25 years ago when they worked on the original Black Swan and Belvoir co-production of the theatrical adaptation of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet. Subsequently, they co-directed Rogers’ play Food, which toured WA in 2013, and now, they bring their combined expertise to The Pool. This enduring connection is reflective of their similar tastes in performance and mutual interest in creating whole worlds together.

“We have a creative shorthand with each other and an affinity regarding the type of performance we’re interested in making,” says Champion.

“Water, swimming and pools are huge loves of Steve’s.

“He came to me with the idea of a play set around the community of a local swimming pool. He imagined we’d stage it with cloths representing the water in a conventional theatre. But, with the advancement of headphone technology, I had the idea to set it in and around an actual pool.”

This sentiment, of defying conventional theatre boundaries, is amplified with the chance to — if the audience would like — join the cast in the pool for a brief aqua aerobics session as part of the show’s finale.

“I guess it’s as close as you can get to a rock concert mosh pit feeling that’s very safe but just as much — if not more — fun,” says Champion.

This article was originally published in January 2024 on PerthNow. Photo courtesy of Black Swan State Theatre Company.