The Same Deep Water as Me

Posted by Laurence Green

Laurence Green is immersed in the grubby world of lawyers’ collusion in a victim culture but leaves feeling short changed. world of fraudulent claims where lying, or at least being economical with the truth is endemic comes under the spotlight in Nick Payne’s disappointing new play The Same Deep Water As me (Donmar Warehouse).

The action is set in Luton in the shabby offices of Scorpion Claims, a two-man personal injury legal firm. It’s a hot summer, the desktop fan is “on the blink” and business is slow. Slow that is, until Kevin, an old school friend of Andrew, the younger and more cynical of the lawyers, swaggers into their office with a dodgy proposition that offers a chance to make a financial killing. Motivated by greed, the cheap scam gets the green light but how fast does a lie have to spin before it gets out of control?

Payne’s pointed satire on the “no win, no fee” compensation culture that has led so many of us to pay hugely inflated car insurance premiums as a result of accident claims for often fictitious injuries is indeed topical and mildly entertaining and the playwright certainly has a particularly good ear for quirky one-liners. But too much of the play is taken up with slangy, foul-mouthed banter and too little with actual drama. It is only in the courtroom scene in the second half which is both funny and horribly convincing that the piece really takes off, showing how small lies can turn into big dramas.

Director John Crowley draws naturalistic performances from Daniel Mays as the glib, devious Andrew Nigel Lindsay, who brings a battered decency to the role of his honest colleague Barry and Marc Wootton, who is the personification of slobbish, avaricious Britain as Andrew’s garrulous former classmate and chief fraudster. There is also a dryly witty turn from Peter Forbes as a kindly Scottish judge prone to philosophical musings.

One can certainly say that Payne (writer of the award winning play Constellations) manages to immerse us in the grubby world of lawyers’ collusion in a victim culture where every mishap is treated as a chance for compensation, but the knockout punch we all expect never comes.

Runs until September 28

Box office: 0844 871 7624

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