A Body of Water

A Body of Water
by Lee Blessing

Presented at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

Coralie Cairns, Beth Graham, and John Sproule

Directed by Wayne Paquette
Stage Managed by Michelle Chan

Program and Poster Design by Martijn Magill

Nominated for 5 Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards

Outstanding Fringe Production

Outstanding Director for a Fringe Play (*Winner: Wayne Paquette)

Outstanding Actor in a Fringe Play (John Sproule)

Outstanding Actress in a Fringe Play (*Winner: Coralie Cairns)

Outstanding Actress in a Fringe Play (Beth Graham)



Two middle-aged people wander into a comfortable living room.

They are isolated, somewhere in the country, surrounded by a shimmering body of water.

They are in their dressing gowns and seem surprised to see each other.

Moss (John Sproule) and Avis (Coralie Cairns) meet at the existential crossroads where Sartre meets Beckett.

With a bit of Groundhog Day thrown in.

The two have no idea who they are and what they are doing there.

Slowly, painfully, they try to put together clues and bits of shared memory that might help them establish a life, but their reality keeps shifting.

Lee Blessing (who wrote the popular A Walk in the Woods) also penned A Body of Water, a confounding play of two people who are deprived of any personal history of context.

The work is directed by Wayne Paquette who keeps things controlled and naturalistic, which only makes the dislocation more unsettling.

A Body of Water floats on low-key, intelligent performances from two of Edmonton’s best know actors.

Sproule projects a kind of confused gravity that might well be the manner of a judge.  Cairns keeps an ironic sense of humour and manages to pull a chuckle or two out of all the confusion around her.

Together the two ar flawless, peforming with an ease and chemistry that demonstrates their years sharing a stage.

A third person enters their world.

She says she is Wren, their daughter – but is she? Maybe she’s a lawyer hired to represent him in a trial where he is charged with the murder of his 11 year old daughter.  Wren tells conflicting stories of who they are and why they are there. She is brusque and impatient, even cruel, much at odds with the personalities of her parents, saying she has told the same story over and over again.

That is, if they are her parents.

At the end, just when we think we’ve got a fix on what is happening, the table tilts once more, forcing us to re-evaluate everything we’ve seen before.

A Body of Water is spare, lean and gripping from beginning to end.

4 1/2 out of 5 Suns.



If Beckett and Pinter tag-teamed behind your back to do a makeover on your life, you might find yourself in something like A Body of Water.

No, wrong. It’s chilling, but there’s more warmth, or half-felt longing for half-remembered warmth, that ripples through this eerie play by American writer Lee Blessing, as Wayne Paquette’s production reveals.

OK, maybe the team of Kafka and Neil Simon, who never seem to end up in bed together — unlike the man and woman here, who wake up together in a house with a spectacular sea view.

Their greatest mystery is … themselves. Who on earth are they? And where? And why? If human identity is cumulative, built from memories and immediate sensation, ourselves as adjusted by jostle in the world, how do you create one from scratch? It’s a metphysical impasse, and a terrifying one.

And it’s also a practical human one, when you wake up naked with a stranger who may be your wife. That’s the beauty of it. And it’s a kind of ultimate challenge for actors, fashioning dimensional characters whose motives and memories are a blank slate. They rise to this odd horror/sitcom occasion impressively.

The man (John Sproule) and the woman (Coralie Cairns) bicker. “We’re having a difference of opinion. … Is that normal for us?” A brisk but somehow sinister young woman (Beth Graham) arrives with morsels of information. Mystification deepens.

Director Paquette negotiates a masterful rhythm of revelation, suspense, and dread. And he gets wonderful performances from his trio of actors. Are we ultimately unknowable, even (or especially) to ourselves? Are our memories our own? Exit, disconcerted.

4 out of 5 stars.

VUE WEEKLY – Kristina De Guzman


This story about a man and a woman who wake up one day in a summer house surrounded by water without the slightest memory as to who they are is both funny and unsettling. A young woman named Wren is the only one who knows the truth but she is less than straightforward, so trying to figure out what’s really going on is like swimming out endlessly with no shore in sight. The circular plot poses existentialist questions about whether we really know who we are, if we could ever truly know everything about the people we love or if two people who share an experience actually live in different realities. It’s discomforting at times but that’s the whole point.

4 out of 5 stars.

SEE MAGAZINE – Ramin Ostad

Lee Blessing’s play has a familiar Twilight Zone-ish premise: two amnesiac adults who cannot even remember their own selves, let alone their surroundings.  But Blessing isn’t primarily interested in solving the mystery about how or why Avis (Coralie Cairns) and Moss (John Sproule) arrived at this situation; instead he focuses on how they cope with the fact that, each day, they will awaken with no memories – the slate wiped clean once again.  In fact, I would have been happy if the mystery had never been solved at all: with the introduction of Wren (Beth Graham), the couple’s daughter, caretaker, and the only person who has all the answers, A Body of Water descends into unsatisfying cliche.

That said, the performances are, as you would expect from this cast, top-notch.  Cairns and Sproule are both extremely convincing in their parts – Avis nervous and distraught, Moss curious and witty.  And Graham is excellent as Wren, seamlessly mixing anguish and rage with love both feigned and genuine.

4 out of 5 stars.


See Magazine Preview Pick: Kahuna Salad – Paul Matwychuk (Excerpt)

A Body of Water

Why We’re Intrigued: Director Wayne Paquette always has impeccable taste in material, and the cast he’s lined up – Coralie Cairns, Beth Graham, John Sproule – is as blue-chip as it gets.

Question Mark: The premise – a man and a woman wake up in a summer house, unable to remember who they are – could be nothing more than the setup for a silly, Shyamalanian final twist.  All we can say is, the big reveal had better be good.


THE EDMONTON JOURNAL “You Can’t Miss These Top Fringe Picks” – Liz Nicholls (Excerpt)

Respected Stage Manager Wayne Paquette is a director of exceptional thoughtfulness and finese.  He has an appetite for intricate, serious drama: Lee Blessing’s mysterious 2005 A Body of Water amply qualifies, with its couple in existential limbo.  So does The Good Thief, a solo show starring a regretful ruffian (Frank Zotter) who has botched a job.