Interview: Sean Scanlon, Director of Pool (no water)

7 years ago
Sharona Lin

We’ve all had moments when we just had to take out our phones or cameras to capture a part of life, whether bad or good. Pool (no water), written by Mark Ravenhill and directed by Sean Scanlon, is about one such moment:

A famous artist invites her friends over to her luxurious new home and, for one night only, the group is back together. However, celebrations come to an abrupt end when the host suffers a horrific accident. As the victim lies in a coma, an almost unthinkable plan starts to take shape; could her suffering be their next work of art?

None of them is sure who was first to take out a camera…

Examining the morality of art, the jealousy and resentment inspired by success and the fragility of friendships, it is performed by Tracey Hare, Leo Milesi, Leo Thompson and Sophia Petridis.

We spoke to director Sean Scanlon, who gave us some insight into the show and its direction.

Sean Scanlon
Sean Scanlon

Pool (no water) is about an event that is captured on camera without consent. Most people will probably have had similar experiences (although not quite on the same level). Do you have one that you drew upon when directing?

A few years ago I was seeing someone and the two of us were at a party. Someone innocently snapped a few photos of us sharing a kiss without our knowledge and the next day it was all over Facebook. 

It wasn’t a secret tryst or anything exciting like that, but I did ask for them to be taken down because it was an intimate moment that was important to us, and I didn’t like having it exposed to the world. 

The girl at the centre of the play is made into a piece of art, against her knowledge and at her most vulnerable.

I laugh now about how precious I was being back then, but I still feel that, on a small scale, I can relate to her distress.

Do you think that the characters in this show are representative of everyone? I’m sure no one would like to think themselves capable of being so casually cruel, but at the same time, I’m sure everyone can identify with the situation the show’s characters find themselves in.

While it is a hard thing to admit, I do think that everyone is capable of cruelness. It’s just a question of context. 

Moments we have from time-to-time; finding out a friend didn’t get the job interview she wanted, but you did and being happy about it, or seeing someone run for the train only for it to pull away at the last second, and getting entertainment from it. 

All small things that we chastise ourselves for thinking, but we still about think none-the-less. Whatever way you may experience it, I think everyone has those moments. 

This play is about the pang of guilt, and surge of adrenalin, that rushes through you when you think these things.

Are there any particular art pieces that you found particularly morally troubling and that you used as inspiration?

The work of Bill Henson was a constant inspiration. In 2008 there were some nasty aspersions cast about his work and this was at a time I was finding my feet as an artist. I was so adamant that his work was “art” that I couldn’t comprehend how someone could call it anything else. 

On the other side of the scale “Piss Christ” by Andres Serrano is a work I still struggle with. My parents are Catholic and I have vivid memories of being a child and listening to them argue the merits of it with friends. For a long time I carried their offense; to this day I still feel it was a mediocre piece but as time has passed I’ve come to realise that it evoked something in me which has lasted. Whether that’s negative or positive, surely that is something.

Are you a fan of any of Ravenhill’s other works?

His most well known work is Shopping and Fucking, which is a great read. I’ve yet to see it put on but it is something I look forward to. 

He is also a prolific lecturer and speaker; a fair few of his lectures are on Youtube and make for fascinating listening.

You’re a pretty impressive director (no need to be modest, if you were planning to!), what do you think you brought as a director to Ravenhill’s script?

*Blushes and awkwardly shuffles feet* 

Well I feel that my direction is all about letting the story speak for itself. I focus on developing, with the cast, a layered view of the play and then trying to present all aspects on the stage. 

Ravenhill’s script is incredibly layered as well as structurally unique; time shifts constantly and emotions jump from one extreme to another. I’ve challenged the actors to attack these moments with fervour and I’m incredibly proud of their work because they understand that the story is paramount.

I find that a lot of pieces take on an anti-technology flavour when criticise a certain aspect of it. Do you think of Pool (no water) as a bit of an anti-technology warning, or more of a comment on people?

I can certainly see how someone could have an anti-technology reading of it. 

The vitriol between the characters for their successful friend builds early on when they are messaging each other without any face-to-face contact, but when confronted by the girl in question, they fall back into civility. 

To her face they are sickeningly sweet; only when she is out of the room or behind a screen do they say the most awful things about her, finding it all too easy to dehumanize her when they don’t have to see the emotional damage it causes.

Photographer: Andrew Laba, Model: Lauren Phillips
Photographer: Andrew Laba, Model: Lauren Phillips

Pool (no water) premieres at Goodtime Studios (Basement) on 746 Swanston St, Carlton on 2 June, 8pm. It runs till 10 June (no show on the Thursday).

Tickets are $22 Full, $17 Concession, $15 Tuesday. Book here: or at the door (subject to availability).

2 – 10 June, 8pm (no show Thurs 5 June)
Tickets: $22 Full, $17 Concession, $15 Tuesday
Bookings: and at the door (subject to availability)
Enquiries: 0417 528 658
Goodtime Studios: (Basement) 746 Swanston Street, Carlton

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