Reviewed – 9th August 2019
“While you laugh at the characters’ blunders, you warm to their naivety”
Fishbowl is a wild mix of theatre’s ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ and TV’s ‘Friends’. It transcends language, using mime and stagecraft to paint the picture of three individuals living side-by-side. The three stock characters portrayed are the hoarder (Pierre Guillois), the tech-nerd (Jonathan Pinto-Rocha) and the wacky experimentalist (Agathe L’Huillier). You can’t help but love this bunch of misfits, even as the world around them crumbles. The audience was in hysterics watching as the comedy of errors played out. It is a seventy-five minute whirlwind of a play, full of surprises.
What makes this production such a stand out is the exciting use of set, props, lights and sound effects. The set, marvellously designed by Laura Léonard, becomes a character in itself. The design is the cross-section of the three apartments, making the audience view them as if the characters are in a fishbowl – we peer in on their every move. The three homes are sandwiched together and are visually very different, creating a sense of claustrophobic chaos. The knock-on effect that each flat owner has on the other is clear through the clever use of special effects. The stagecraft team, through their use of puppetry, quick changes and design elements, are fundamental to the play’s success. The use of visual and audio gags is a running theme throughout, providing constant laughs. One such example of this is each of the characters’ fight with a mosquito that can never seem to be got rid off.
The cast’s skills in mime and physical comedy are a thrill to watch. Every possible aggravating factor about living with others is well observed and then exaggerated to the extreme for comic effect. The direction, also by Guillois, is faultless. The idiosyncrasies of each character are consistent, such as the individual way each opened their door or how they slept.
On the surface Fishbowl is about a bunch of oddly-matched neighbours who physically fend off the outside world through a series of increasingly ridiculous blunders. However, this is ultimately a play about finding connection with others. While you laugh at the characters’ blunders, you warm to their naivety. This is an accessible show for anyone at Fringe: I can’t recommend it enough. I have never seen a play make falling over, losing items of clothing and dropping things down rubbish shoots look so authentic. It is a testament to not only the actors, but the team of designers and backstage crew that help to make the show run so smoothly. I see big things to come for this company in Edinburgh and beyond.
Reviewed by Emily Morris
Photography by Fabienne Rappeneau
Pleasance Courtyard until 26th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019
King’s Head Theatre
Reviewed – 17th April 2018
“A tighter play might have lent a much-needed weight to the darker central theme of depression”
The writer’s note for Jenna Kamal’s Fishbowl reminds us of a haunting fact: the biggest killer of men under forty five in Britain is suicide. In a world where masculinity is explicitly linked to strength, and emotion explicitly linked to weakness, she argues we are creating a generation of men who are unable to handle complex emotions and routinely suffer the consequences. With Fishbowl, she stages a careful study of this alarming notion.
George and Hatty are neighbours and sometime lovers. One morning at 4 a.m., George calls Hatty complaining of a leak in his ceiling. She thinks that it’s just an excuse for sex, but as the play unfolds, it is clear something much darker is on George’s mind.
In the opening moments of the show the actors’ delivery does feel somewhat stilted, but as they settle into the performance, the characters come alive. Nick Cope skilfully handles George’s transition from comedy to tragedy; slowly his stubborn attitude slips away, revealing deeper troubles which he can barely admit to himself. Felicity Green’s Hatty starts in a slightly forced register, but once the play is up and running, she likewise settles in to its emotional rhythms.
The stage design is spacious and efficient – sofa, table, chair – and gives the actors plenty of room to stretch their legs but can sometimes add an unusual distance between the pair, even though they’re supposed to be (semi-) romantically involved. This distance also appears to be implicit in the writing, though it is not always clear why.
In general, Kamal’s dialogue is warm and witty. In fact, it is often hilarious; on several occasions, George and Hatty’s combative relationship gets genuine big laughs from the audience. George’s quixotic attempts to deal with his leak and his inability to avoid argument demonstrate Kamal’s capability with comedy. However, this does sometimes overshadow the play’s more serious overall message, and one can’t help the feeling that some of the comedic sequences could have been trimmed. A tighter play might have lent a much-needed weight to the darker central theme of depression. There is also a sense that George and Hatty are at arm’s length with each other, despite their romantic relationship. This is partially because of George’s inability to really deal with emotion, but nonetheless feels at odds with the plot. A brief kiss between them towards the end suddenly reminds us just how unromantic they have been, despite the undeniable affection between them.
However, in spite of a few slightly-too-lengthy sequences, Kamal’s story is considered and her characters sympathetic. The isolation that many young people suffer today, especially in big cities, is made all too painfully clear. Conversation may well be the best form of confrontation, and with Fishbowl, Kamal makes a powerful point.
Reviewed by Harry True
Photography by Erin Blackmore
King’s Head Theatre until 21st April