Existential Fish and Dread
When existential fish is in the title it fills me with dread. I get thoughts of people in drama class acting like a sea creature and getting scenarios barked at them. Fortunately, any fears were unfounded. Rather than a stage of crabs and clown fish you get a well-written funny and moving play.
That’s not to say there is no existentialism. We are first introduced to Martin who, following a panic attack inexplicably finds himself lost and at the aquarium. He is suddenly finding himself questioning existence and life’s meaning. The vulnerability is laid bare from the start. A difficult role played sensitively by Nigel Fyfe.
At the aquarium he meets Ellie, a PhD Student working part time at the aquarium, who helps guide him towards the answers he needs. Ellie’s wealth of knowledge gives both Martin and the audience a lot to think about and take in, though no easy answers are offered. Natalie Durkin is endearingly charismatic as the exuberant Ellie and is a joy to watch.
The show has excellent direction by Gwenan Bain, brining out moments of comedy other directors could miss and adding those little touches that brings the characters to life and makes them real. A brilliant complement to the comedy timing of the two actors.
Having seen some west end shows recently which are all about big displays of set and effects that have fallen flat the contrast to this show couldn’t be more stark. With just a bench and a projection of the aquarium the audience were captivated throughout. The storytelling from writer Martha Reed is what makes it so strong.
It’s a great play that deserves a wide audience. But maybe an update to the title would help.
Follow them at @exfishanddread on twitter to find out when they are next performing.
Rating: 4 Star