Southwark's Jellyfish theatre looks like a Noah's Ark for new writing, a fitting home for Simon Wu's new play Oikos (pronounced ee-kos). Salil has it all - a nice family, a highly paid job, a bit on the side and a house in Chiswick. However, he risks losing it all as the Thames bursts its banks to destroy his comfortable life, and there's something in his past he needs to sort out before starting again. The first half establishes the members of this unhappy family, living their separate lives, then the second half shows them trapped together in the flooded house, finally confronting one another with their grievances.
All elements of this production are as mismatched as the reclaimed planks forming the walls; combined, they hold up and remain watertight but that's all that can be said. Amy Dawson (Lily), Dido Miles (Assana) and Neil d'Souza (Salil) never quite reconcile their acting styles; Dawson's over-enunciated sub-Goth teenage tearaway jars with d'Souza's mystical lapses into his past, supposedly painful but it's hard to tell with so much in the mix. Miles as the harassed middle-class mother brings gravitas but still can't unify the three into a convincing family unit facing a crisis.
The script and the staging emphasises the clashing characters, sometimes to dramatic effect but mostly to (unintentionally) frustrate the audience. Too many stylistic devices break up what could be a sweeping, stormy straightforward story: bursts of direct address, childhood flashbacks, recorded voices, video clips, one-sided dialogue with invisible characters muddle things irreparably. By the time the three are brought together, it's like they've never met. The water rises, the niceties of Chiswick life are swept away; what remains is one man's confrontation with his watery past and a slightly baffled, unmoved, unconvinced audience.
Oikos at Jellyfish Theatre, until 18 September. For more information and to book, go to the Oikos Project website. Image shows Jellyfish Theatre, author's own