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Cool Water Murder

17 JUNE - 3 JULY 1999

By award-winning writer Chris O'Connell
Directed by John Ginman
Designed by Chris Oram
Music composed by Derek Nisbet

Imagine an isolated hotel perched precariously on the edge of a cliff - windswept, bleak and battered by the elements. Imagine too, that this hotel contains dark secrets, lies and erratic personalities driven by murderous intent. This is the setting for Coventry writer Chris O'Connell's intriguing new psychological thriller Cool Water Murder which opens at the Belgrade Theatre on 17 June as part of Arts Alive '99.

This highly charged thriller was commissioned by The Belgrade Theatre and has been developed through the Writing House (see notes) prior to its premiere on the main stage, and forms one of several projects being undertaken by Chris O'Connell in 1999 (see notes).

Cool Water Murder is a darkly intense piece of theatre which explores - and exposes - difficult and often uncomfortable relationships. The hotel, on the one hand, a refuge for a married couple in crisis, on the other, becomes the catalyst which drives its inhabitants to madness and murder. The play draws to a spectacular and shocking conclusion ...

The cast:

Karina Fernandez - Liza
John Kane - Drew
Chris MacDonnell - Griffin
Janice McKenzie - Heather
Paul Rattray - Danny
Matt Waite - Lawrence


Words from Chris O'Connell on a frantic '99 ...

These days, everyone seems to be thinking and talking about the big one; it's the subject on everyone's lips - where will you be? how drunk will you get? The Millennium, the year 2000. But what about 1999, isn't anyone interested in enjoying it? or is it just to be remembered as a dusty prequel to the brighter future of the 21st century. Not in Coventry it's not, not for me it's not. 1999 is the big one as far as I'm concerned. It first started to feel that way when I got to hear in January that I'd been given a Pearson Television Theatre Writer's Bursary which meant I could become attached as Writer-in-Residence with Paines Plough for the whole of this year. Then in April, I was asked to join Paul Godfrey and Charlotte Keatley as part of a British Playwriting Symposium in Tbilisi, Georgia. The eight days I spent working with fifteen playwrights from various post-communist countries was exhilarating and it provided a unique opportunity to understand both the achievements and frustrations of playwrights in Georgia, Armenia, Latvia and so on. Now in May, rehearsals for my play Cool Water Murder are about to begin and two weeks after that so will rehearsals for my other play Car. Both plays premiere in Coventry in June.

The first play, a psychological thriller and a commission for the Belgrade theatre's main stage, is my blockbuster movie play, with an ending that Spielberg would be pleased to call his own collapsing sets and all surround sound effects! Who said people don't write theatrical plays anymore? Cool Water Murder performs for two and a half weeks, but I just hope there's no crime buffs coming along expecting a bit of Cluedo and people dying in the drawing room because Cool Water Murder's not that sort of thriller, it's ... well, a thriller with a difference: dark, quirky, more David Lynch than Agatha Christie. At the same time, there's Car, produced by Julia Negus and Theatre Absolute, a play I started writing four years ago and that now has no resemblance to its original structure - good thing too, because four years later it's a far better play than it was in '95. Developing Car was fun - that's the overriding feeling - letting the language of the four young mavericks who steal a car flood across the page, rich and muscular, poetic and bold. The play's director Mark Babych said it'd be great if theatre could sometimes be more like going to a football match ... well in that case I hope Car will be Cup Final stuff.

After Car it's into July - and by now the year will have got really hot, because I'll be working with Frantic Assembly, the brightest theatre company in Britain today, scripting their new play Hymns. In between Frantic, it's going to stay frantic as in August Car goes to the Pleasance in Edinburgh for three weeks, Hymns previews in Coventry for two days and the new football season starts and Coventry City begin their annual struggle for survival. After Edinburgh, Car then goes down to the Pleasance in London and plays for three months in September. It's possible by then that I'll start to slow down and join in with everyone else, focusing on the new year and the new century to come - but then only for a minute, because after that I'll have to start thinking about the play I've recently been commissioned to write for Radio 4, and the play I'll be writing during my residency with Paines Plough


Appendix - The Writing House & Theatre Absolute

The Writing House is a service for writers which nurtures the creation and development of new plays, working with six writers a year, in structured workshop sessions with actors and directors.

How does it work? Whilst providing an opportunity for writers to work in close contact with directors and actors without pressure of time or financial restraint, the nature of the projects taken on is flexible: a writer may be in the exploratory stages of an idea for a play, or, alternatively, a writer might bring a finished or semi-finished script and spend the time 'road testing' and if necessary, reworking their script. Theatre Absolute and The Belgrade Theatre aim to work with writers whose plays they are committed to producing.

Where did the idea for The Writing House come from? The Belgrade Theatre works closely with Theatre Absolute, an independent theatre company based in Coventry. Theatre Absolute dedicates its work to the development and production of new plays. Both companies share similar desires for the nurturing of new writing in theatre; new plays help to place our lives in a context, they can show us how we live, and in the process they can make us laugh and entertain us as well as challenge and provoke us. Theatre Absolute and The Belgrade Theatre felt concerned that not enough time or resources were given to new writing and what evolved out of this shared concern was the idea of The Writing House.

What sort of plays is The Writing House interested in? Theatre Absolute is looking for contemporary small scale studio/touring pieces. They are interested in writers who have a unique, bold and provocative approach to their work. The Belgrade Theatre are looking for plays to perform on their main stage which have commercial viability and which will challenge and entertain their audiences.

MORE INFORMATION: Cath Pitkethly  01203 846 703

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Belgrade Theatre - Cool Water Muder - 17 June - 3 July 1999

The Belgrade Theatre - The Nerd - 7 - 12 June 1999

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry - Junk - 1-5 June 1999

CWN / Arts & Entertainment / Belgrade Theatre / June 99 / Cool Water Murder

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