Tag Archives: Trafalgar Studios

The Fishermen

★★★½

Trafalgar Studios

The Fishermen

The Fishermen

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 7th September

★★★½

 

“there are multiple scenes packed too tightly with action, making the plot slightly cumbersome to follow”

 

Jack McNamara’s The Fishermen has found success in multiple venues now: first at Home in Manchester, then at the Arcola in London; a sell-out stint at Edinburgh, and it’s back for another round in London at Trafalgar Studios.

Set in Southern Nigeria in the mid-90s, Obembe (Valentine Olukoga) returns home and is reunited with his younger brother Ben (David Alade) after eight years. Following a slightly tense first encounter, the two get to reminiscing, entertaining each other with impressions of family members and old faces from the community, and talking about old times. In doing so they unravel the incident which permanently scarred both their lives and led to Obembe’s running away.

Based on Chigozie Obioma’s Man Booker shortlisted novel by the same name, adaptor Gbolahan Obisesan has the unenviable task of condensing an entire novel in to a 75-minute play. It’s a lot to ask of a two-hander, however, and there are multiple scenes packed too tightly with action, making the plot slightly cumbersome to follow.

Alade and Olukoga do well to embody the roles of each of their family members as well as their younger selves, and for the most part it’s clear who is speaking and from when (the past or the present). The two find comic relief where they can, giving the audience an occasional reprieve from the play’s almost overwhelming intensity. But the device of looking back to times gone by, jokingly mimicking their mother and so on, doesn’t quite translate when they’re re-enacting serious family arguments or plots to murder for example – it’s not that the re-enactment doesn’t work for the plot, but rather the means by which they justify it. It might have been better if they had just performed it for the audience, rather than for each other.

The design (Amelia Jane Hankin) too is ambitious but overreaching: a curved row of metal poles imitates prison bars, and for the first ten minutes the brothers are divided by it. But thereafter, they’re walking through it, swapping places, standing side by side. It transpires that neither are in prison, rendering the bars just symbolic. Whilst I understand the gesture, the piecemeal manner by which the audience is trying to understand what happened means the bars are a red herring and quite distracting.

Both Alade and Olukoga are superb: Their familial bond is palpable as brotherly love grinds against old wounds. Whilst the novel’s nuanced tale doesn’t quite translate to such a short re-enactment, at least there’s no time to be distracted or bored, and the passion of the performances alone fully justifies The Fishermen’s adaptation.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


The Fishermen

Trafalgar Studios until 12th October

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Coming Clean | ★★★★ | January 2019
Black Is The Color Of My Voice | ★★★ | February 2019
Soul Sessions | ★★★★ | February 2019
A Hundred Words For Snow | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Admissions | ★★★ | March 2019
Scary Bikers | ★★★★ | April 2019
Vincent River | ★★★★ | May 2019
Dark Sublime | ★★★ | June 2019
Equus | ★★★★★ | July 2019
Actually | ★★★★ | August 2019

 

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Actually

★★★★

Trafalgar Studios

Actually

Actually

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 12th August 2019

★★★★

 

“tackles its theme with skilful insight and a refreshing amount of nuance”

 

In an age of uncertainty, the only thing we can be sure of is ourselves. Maybe it’s youthful arrogance, but college freshmen Tom and Amber seem very sure of themselves. His passion is music; her path is writing. He knows that she likes him; she is mildly obsessed with him. She’s sure that he raped her; he’s sure that he didn’t.

Actually is a story that is rich with ideas that are explored efficiently and empathetically. Anna Ziegler uses her ninety minutes wisely, examining her themes and protagonists with equal focus. Ziegler gives us a rich sense of who her characters are, providing details and anecdotes that prevent them from becoming archetypes of perpetrator and victim. Amber Cohen is Jewish, a college professor’s daughter and naïve idealist who battles to keep her rampant insecurity at bay. Tom Anthony was the only African-American student at his high school. He is somewhat cocky and something of a ladies’ man, but is nonetheless a loner who is uncomfortable in his own skin.

It is through these two contrasting yet strangely connected characters that Ziegler seeks to complicate the issue of sexual assault. Is Amber reporting this because she feels genuinely violated, or because her friends told her to? Is she really questioning her privilege, or devaluing her feelings? Can Tom’s personal struggles be considered a valid explanation for his behaviour? But, then again, what did he actually do? Yasmin Paige and Simon Manyonda ensure that we can sympathise with Amber and Tom even at their worst moments. Both portray a sense of vulnerability that makes the audience realise how out of their depth they truly are. Both are highly engaging and excel in high stakes moments, but sometimes struggle to nail Ziegler’s sly injections of humour.

As a production, it is sleek and simple. Appropriately, the stage is a grey area; the back wall is cracked open slightly, reemphasising the invasive nature of the hearing they have to face. A clever piece of design right at the last second ends the show on a satisfying note, adding poignancy to an already emotionally wrought piece.

Actually tackles its theme with skilful insight and a refreshing amount of nuance. Its resolution – or, rather, its lack of resolution – makes the show feel complete: not as a piece of storytelling, but as a realistic depiction of sexual assault cases, their complexities, and the ongoing struggle to understand the experiences, not only of others, but of ourselves.

 

Reviewed by Harriet Corke

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli

 


Actually

Trafalgar Studios until 31st August

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Hot Gay Time Machine | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Coming Clean | ★★★★ | January 2019
Black Is The Color Of My Voice | ★★★ | February 2019
Soul Sessions | ★★★★ | February 2019
A Hundred Words For Snow | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Admissions | ★★★ | March 2019
Scary Bikers | ★★★★ | April 2019
Vincent River | ★★★★ | May 2019
Dark Sublime | ★★★ | June 2019
Equus | ★★★★★ | July 2019

 

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