A green triangular structure zig-zags down the centre of a black painted theatre in Darlinghurst. Occasional epileptic fits of green light stutter out of the black occasionally lighting the faces of four people who speak with one voice. Mark Ravenhill’s “pool (no water)” is a raw and robust production from square the circle neatly packed into 55 minutes of pure storytelling. Directed by Anthony Skuse this is theatre at its most unadorned. Language: muscular and potent. Performers: natural and transparent.

“Pool (no water)” centres on a collective of four (but what was five) artists who worked together on community based, thematically strong and issue based art. When “Sally” (unseen by the audience) left the collective and became successful as an artist on her own, the collective struggle to come to terms what that success means to them in their pursuit of beauty and art and success. Sally’s “success,” in its many material incantations, including that of a “pool” is greeted with smiling devastation amongst her colleagues (“friends”) who are left behind anonymous and still among the working impoverished. Bitter loathing and hidden resentment bubble to the surface as they confess their grief, anger and sheer exhilaration when witnessing the suffering of those succeed.

This is a remarkable and fascinating piece which asks us to confront the ugly side of human achievement: envy and shadenfraud. Who’s work is it? What is art for? What are we left with at the end of our lives? Is the endless pursuit of art, is that long-winded conversation of art which has been moaning on for thousands of years really, REALLY worth the effort and the angst, the struggle and the pain? Confronting every artist is the competition with their peers, with their contemporaries. Is the grass always greener and who gets what when and why? Who is more talented? More entitled? More successful? What is success? What are we reduced to but a mob of nasty egotistical hedonistic competitors hoping for the fall of someone else so we may have a chance to climb to the top of the heap? Is it all worth it when it makes such ugly creatures: is success really worth it?

All performers (Angela Bauer, Guy Edmonds, Lisa Griffiths and Sam Haft) are impressive storytellers who explore what it means to be yearning to be a part of a group: the basic pack/herd mentality humans possess: the need to belong. At times powerfully raw and others flippant and honest, Bauer, Edmonds, Griffiths and Haft command and control our attention, share and divide our opinions and ultimately leave us impressed and surprised at the simplicity with which a world can be constructed sans props, sans complicated set: fuelled by words.

Anthony Skuse has carved the long, winding “molten stream of dialogue” into a beautifully woven piece of theatre. The rhythm of the story is carried and bounced between actors with the aid of microphones and polyphonic sound design by the prolific and ever-impressive sound designer, Jeremy Silver. There is no doubt this is a devastating, surprising confessional. Lighting design by Verity Hampson is distinct and simple and allows the performers to weave in and out and around the lighting structure like a fence rail around a pool. Rita Carmody’s set and costume design are simple and functional: allowing the story to be the heart of the experience.

Simple and raw, pool (no water) reminds us of the power of the performer, of language and exposes the ugliness of competition. A very provocative piece of theatre and sometimes a little too close to the bone.