MY LOVER WAS A SALMON IN THE CLIMATE APOCALYPSE at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
“the Bradán Theatre Company is onto something significant with their intimate, confessional style of presentation”
My Lover Was A Salmon in the Climate Apocalypse is a whimsical piece, presented by the Irish Bradán Theatre Company. It has several strengths, and one significant weakness. Nonetheless, the energy and charm of this company is worth sixty minutes of your time. With more experience, Bradán should have a bright future, climate catastrophe notwithstanding. Directed by Kate Bauer and written by James Ireland, My Lover Was A Salmon in the Climate Apocalypse is a show that will capture the imagination, even if the script still needs some work.
The Bradán Theatre Company (the word bradán means salmon in Irish) start their show with music, and you could be forgiven for thinking that this is the company’s main strength. Rory Gradon, Elinor Peregrine and the marvellous Elisabeth Flett (on violin and recorder at the back of the stage) present their story through Irish tunes, and Irish mythology, beginning with some lively jigs and the story of Finn MacCool (an Irish legend responsible for the Giant’s Causeway). My Lover Was A Salmon in the Climate Apocalypse is not about mythical giants, however. It is about a young couple, Fin (played by Gradon) and Fiona (Peregrine), navigating their relationship through times of unprecedented ecological disaster. Sam (Flett) stays in the background, commenting musically on the couple’s love story, and with some very funny facial expressions, as required. Sam is the anchor keeping us grounded in reality in this strange, and quirky tale. In a nutshell, My Lover Was A Salmon in the Climate Apocalypse is about the overly sensitive Finn. Finn identifies with the disappearing salmon off the coast of Ireland to such an extent that he begins to become one, much to Fiona’s distress.
The show is not just a story about a relationship, however, and this is where the script begins to show signs of strain. In addition to Finn and Fiona’s love story, we’re treated to mass extinctions, Irish mythology all mixed up with Irish history, and the importance of salmon as a way of keeping the population alive when there was very little to eat. The salmon make an appearance, pursued by orcas, their natural predators in the ocean. And then there are the salmon fisheries. All these elements are accompanied by wonderful music. As you might expect, Finn’s obsession with salmon takes its toll on his longstanding relationship with Fiona. This is where the show takes an existential, out of species leap, and the script collapses, much like the salmon populations of Ireland. With climate apocalypse the subject of this piece, maybe that’s intentional. Nevertheless, the Bradán Theatre Company is onto something significant with their intimate, confessional style of presentation. With a stronger script, and more development of the characters, this is a potentially a wonderful show that should play well to audiences everywhere.
If plays about climate catastrophe appeal to you, catch My Lover Was A Salmon in the Climate Apocalypse. You’ll get to savour sixty minutes of salmon related themes, accompanied by terrific music. That’s not a bad haul for audiences looking for something a little wilder on a climate theme, and off an overly familiar shore.
Reviewed 9th August 2022
by Dominica Plummer
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Produced by Conor Gray and directed by Kate Bauer, a modern rendition of Shakespeare’s historical tragedy Julius Caesar is the latest production from theatre company The UnDisposables. Set in Rome in 44 BC, Julius Caesar follows the moral dilemma of the Roman senator Brutus (Sarah Dean) over joining the conspiracy led by Cassius (Rachel Wilkes) to murder the state’s popular leader Julius Caesar (Isobel Hughes). With the support of Casca (Georgia Andrews), Cinna (Jake Saunders), Metellus Cimber (Esther Joy MacKay) and Decimus Brutus (Rory Gradon), Cassius and Brutus succeed in their goal before they are plunged into civil war against Caesar’s right hand man Mark Antony (Room Sikdar-Rahman) and Caesar’s adopted son, Octavius (Grace Hussy-Burd).
The UnDisposables’ production aims to draw parallels between Rome’s civil unrest and the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion’s protest activities across the globe. The conspirators here are not just trying to protect the abstract values of liberty and freedom, but the planet itself. Before the play begins, the cast parade noisily around the stage holding signs about Caesar, and, reminiscent of the group’s protest in Leicester Square last December, all don fluorescent yellow hi vis jackets marked with an ‘R’ for Rome.
This is an intriguing comparison to make, but this theme is unfortunately not really explored beyond such superficial references. There is no real suggestion that the characters are concerned about a climate crisis. More props and alternative costumes – gas or face masks, dirtied clothes, near-empty water contains strewn across the stage – would certainly help to create a sense of imminent apocalypse. Rome’s descent into civil war could too be used more explicitly to reflect on the increasingly polarising nature of politics in contemporary society.
Hussy-Burd and Isobel Hughes are the standout performers. Hussy-Burd’s various roles are not major players, but she moves between them with great ease, shining best as Trebonius. Hughes has incredible gravitas as Caesar and commands the stage whenever she is present. It is a great shame that she is not a character in the second half of the performance. Wilkes, Dean and Andrews deliver their huge quantity of lines confidently with few mistakes or hesitations. There is also some fantastic choreography that all the cast execute well such as a perfectly in sync fighting sequence that serves to break up the narrative performance and provide some respite from the long speeches.
The audience are seated surrounding the stage, and space between and behind their chairs allow the cast to weave amongst them. The stage itself is largely bare, except for a few chairs that intermittently populate the space. A balcony overlooks the main stage space which is used in the latter half of the performance for more dramatic scenes. This space could certainly be used earlier, especially in helping to establish Caesar’s power and hold over the populace. Protest signs – many with humorous slogans reminiscent of those which have gone viral on social media – decorate the theatre walls.
Ominous music and sound effects (Tom Triggs) play throughout the first half of the play as the action creeps towards Caesar’s assassination. A particularly effective moment is the loud, echoey voice that delivers Calphurnia’s premonition of Caesar’s death. The lighting (James Ireland) does not vary too much other than to denote day and night, and there are few props apart from some potato peelers as rather distracting substitutes for knives and the colourful signage.
The UnDisposables’ Julius Caesar is an ambitious and slick production and succeeds best in its acting and sound design, but more focus on drawing out their contemporary environmental themes will elevate this production to a new level.