Tom and Lydia met by the sea, where all the best stories start. He is a fisherman and she is a ventriloquist. A fairytale for the growing up, FishHead's net casts wide. A cast of three, a perspex set, a great sound track and evocative projections; this highly visual piece explores the symbiosis between humankind and the sea, through an original story that moves and uplifts.

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‘Incredibly beautiful in all aspects…’
Judy Collins, Remote Goat

‘The show’s simple message about the importance of human connection leaves a lasting glow.’
Vicky Anderson, Made Up

‘FishHead is beautifully written and should not be explained but experienced. This was theatre that moved the emotions and asked questions of the head. It required it's audience to use their imaginations and open their hearts.  'FishHead,' (Hosking's programme notes) tells of living and dying well, of faith, of living one's dreams, and looking after one another.' Without sentimentality or preaching the story ended and the audience cheered like thunder.’
Tom Locke, The Argus



 “FishHead is a groundbreaking piece of drama where tradition and surrealism blend to take the audience on a journey where the plot constantly surprises and delights. Conceptually it is unique and it has a haunting quality that leaves you with a feel good factor, albeit asking deeper questions about life and relationships with an edge of pathos. There is no doubt that this cutting edge, surreal story is set to impress and enthrall audiences in the days to come. Pure genius and very gritty.”

Jamieson Lee Hill

“Wonderful show, you’re all very talented. The set, the innovation, the use of bodies, very nice.”
Nigel Court

“Excellent production. Very enjoyable and absolutely loved it.”
John Denton

“Top Class! Moving. A good performance- what theatre can be. And well supported. You have an audience here.”
Colette Hanna

 “Fantastic, really touching.”
Kaspalita Thompson

"Thouroughly enjoyable and touching. I love the meaning and depth. I love the bodies representing rocks and various aspects of the sea. I laughed, I cried ...well done! "
Sara Carter

Fishhead Reviews


seaI loved this unusual production, which held me mesmerised from the very start – catching my attention as soon as we heard the voice-over for the mock radio interview, in the style of Desert Island Discs. A simple set, consisting of three perspex boxes, cleverly created everything necessary to the story. Even a caravan (“very cosy but small”) was improvised so well by the actors, that I could almost feel its claustrophobic nature.

The story unfolds with a series of songs punctuating and highlighting the action. Tom Kelly (Trev Fleming) is an oyster fisherman under pressure from a loan company, about to lose his fishing boat and, therefore, his livelihood. Depressed and lonely, he’s befriended by complete stranger Lydia (Michelle Pogmore), and her ventriloquist dummy Jonty. As their relationship develops Jonty becomes a vehicle for both the main characters’ emotions and projections, for their hopes and their fears.

Pogmore from the start is captivating; her gentle easy style made me naturally warm to her. Her portrayal of someone trying to master the art of throwing her voice was heroically convincing, and the way she moved seamlessly from being Lydia to Jonty was totally believable. I would never have thought that I could have been moved by a paper-mache oyster, but Pogmore's magical portrayal of the talking puppet left me smiling from ear to ear.

The production was visually interesting and I was left continuously wondering what the performers would do next. Pogmore's literal leap of faith was heart-stopping, and Fleming's fantastical rock-god portrayal of Jesus was entertaining to say the least. Further characters, dressed identically in grey suits, unobtrusively double up as scene-shifters and sea creatures; this was a marvellous idea. Their subtle transformations, into oyster-delivering waves and playing seals, were delightful.

But I did feel the ending was a let-down. Although inevitable, it was also predictable, and I could have forecast what was going to happen some time in advance. For me, Lydia was the real pearl in the piece – and I would have preferred to have seen a conclusion that encompassed that less literally.

But this disappointment was short-lived, and I left feeling that I had witnessed a truly beautiful piece of theatre. It had a purity and originality about it I have not often experienced. This is in essence a story about kindness and compassion; Lydia is as lost a soul as Tom, and through a serendipitous meeting they find each other. She gives him hope, and the faith to believe that “anything is possible.” What better message to leave your audience with? Inspiring.

Bethan Troakes, Broadway Baby

Don’t let the title put you off. This is not a show about fish guts or an upside mermaid but an absolutely charming tale of friendship through adversity and using nothing but a couple of perspex boxes as its set, truly was a triumph.


I left fully equipped with my new found knowledge of oysters and a sense of satisfaction having just sat through a more than well written, well performed show.

This touching show confronts themes of male depression and dwindling coastline industry in a sensitive but never didactic way and gives an overwhelming sense of hope for those facing these issues. Even for those who aren’t, there was a lot that could be taken away from this play as it promoted a real understanding of the lives of people in communities such as these.

One of the highlights of the show was when it became clear that the stage hands, who had previously been in the shadows as you’d expect, were actually going to perform too and continued to have routines that interspersed through the rest of the show. Their deadpan faces and matching suits allowed for genuine laughter as they started bopping around the stage to a well-known reggae song and as absurd as this may sound it never slipped into being just silly.


puppetandmichelleThe play was broken up nicely by a pre-recorded radio show that partly narrated the piece while under the pretence of being Tom’s desert island discs, with each song choice introducing the next phase of the show. As Tom and Lydia’s relationship developed, his stance as a tough, yet struggling fisherman bloomed into a caring companion whose life was clearly being touched by Lydia’s friendship and reassurance about his life catching oysters.

Not a lot about Lydia was revealed through the main plot, apart from her new found and not so successful hobby as a ventriloquist, but her character acted as a catalyst in revealing more of Tom. They both became more and more endearing as the piece went along and even the late introduction of a new stage presence was welcomed by an audience who were beaming with delight throughout.

There are elements of this show that really stand out, the acting was outstanding, the set was innovative and the story was distinct yet still surprising and as a whole it was well structured and summed up perfectly by the end. The humour was funny but also very charming and was like watching a clumsy joke and a chuckle between friends, rather than professionals who had learned a script.

I left fully equipped with my new found knowledge of oysters and a sense of satisfaction having just sat through a more than well written, well performed show.

FISHHEAD VISITS ABERYSTWYTH - Adam Somerset, Theatre in Wales

image02A touring show that comes to Aberystwyth with the support of Arts Council England is not uncommon. A production with assistance from Worcestershire’s County Council is less so. In fact “Fishhead” comespowerfully tinged with Wales. Director and writer Tiffany Hosking is now based in Great Malvern- thatjewel of Victorian architecture a skip away from the Powys’ border- but schooled in Tregaron and Aberystwyth, with onward study in Swansea. The writing has taken place in the shadow of Llandewi Brefi. “FishHead” has already been to venues from Liverpool to the Brighton Fringe. This last-but-oneperformance is something of a homecoming and it has the front-of-house staff scurrying to locate extra chairs for the late arrivals packing out Aber’s Studio space.

If FishHead were a book it would be an Alice Munro or William Trevor. As a writer Tiffany Hosking avoids all the characteristics that disfigure writing for performance. There is none of the wholesale spraying of f-words that lesser authors judge to be indicators of grit and authenticity. The characters do not come a-bursting with authorial opinions on items topical in the news. They are on stage with space between them, so that the actors have something real to do.

The story itself has a honed simplicity. But theatre is more, much more, than story. Its aesthetic ground is the making of pattern and pattern-within-pattern. “FishHead” comes with much artistry. The selkie of legend acts as a leitmotif. It moves to a closure that is a surprise. But it links wholly to what has gone before and has a haunting overtone of metaphor.

Structurally, the writing is framed by an offstage radio show- the host played Caitlin Morgan- that features eight pieces of music. The why and the when of this frame only reveals itself, with cleverness, as “FishHead” moves towards its end. The last image, as the lights go down, fuses action, character and a well-known piece of music with brilliance.

Theatre at its very least takes its audience into human worlds it has never known. “FishHead” is the first work where a lead character is an oyster-dredger. Trev Fleming’s Tom Kelly has left his native Ireland after disease has ravaged the family oyster beds. By route of a stint in a northern call centre this inveterate evader of obligations has come to coastal Landwich in a last attempt to make good his fishing

Michelle Pogmore, in a performance of great heart, is Lydia, come too to this coastal edge, her current aspiration to be a ventriloquist. Mop-headed, spindle-legged Jonty with his round blue button-eyes is the puppet she takes to a successful gig at Landwich’s local pub.

The cast is subtly rounded out by Sean Connell. Alex Radu, Claire Burton, Jade Cook and Anthony Lightfoot stand at each corner of the performance area. It appears that they are to be no more than grey-suited, distant-gazing sentinels. Then they suddenly but restrainedly perform as physical players for purposes on both land and sea. At one point they link with Michelle Pogmore, an action that elicits spontaneous applause.

The design is unique. A mobile of fifty blue-fin tuna is suspended over the three-part stage set- construction by Charles Mason. To reveal quite how the set is used to various purposes would be a spoiler for audiences at Taliesin or future venues. Other company credits go to Emily Nightingale as dramaturg, Karen Johns for puppet and graphic design, Pete Coxhead and Jonty Petfield for lighting design. Choreography is by Lizie Giraudeau.

Malvern has a place of distinction in theatre’s history. A plaque close to the Elgar Memorial marks its part in the centenary of Birmingham’s Rep. FishHead has been supported by the Sir Barry Jackson Trust, the Elmley Foundation also. There is a neat parallel that this summer Malvern has been host to Wales’ theatre at its peak. “FishHead”, touring west, has crossed paths with Terry Hands’ “Under Milk Wood”.

As the lights go up on “FishHead” an audience member a few seats distant is applying a tissue to eyes that have gone moist. To be cause for tears, there is no testament to theatre that comes higher.

Judy Collins for Remote Goat

It isn’ t every day that I say I enjoyed watching a tale about depression and death, but thanks to Reaction Theatre Makers production of FishHead at The Kazimier, I did!

In its publicity, FishHead states that “male depression was a starting point for this piece”. I have to admit this didn’ t instil me with a sense of a good night out. However, FishHead proved to be incredibly beautiful in all aspects including writing, directing, performing and aesthetics.
The main story revolves around a chance meeting of Lydia Freeborn (played by Michelle Pogmore) and Tom ?? (played by Trev Fleming) and what ensues is a story of friendship, dealing and coping with depressions and ultimately hope. The events on stage are narrated through the medium of a retrospective ‘ desert island discs’ like radio show which introduces, interjects and closes the story. This gives us a subtle insight into Toms fight with depression and the woman who saved him. I found this a clever devise which also enables the music to help move the emotions along without ramming them down our throats!

Pogmore & Fleming’ s performances are incredibly strong. Their onstage chemistry and handling of many sensitive subjects is lovely to watch, and it is easy to see that in less able hands the scenes could have turned into melodrama and histrionics. The play as a whole is wonderfully understated. The music is sparse and has great effect when it does happen. Visually the piece is quite striking. The set is a self contained Perspex box that is moved, tipped and climbed on to not only create different situations but also acted as a physical manifestation of the entrapment of Tom’ s depression. Four grey suited dancers also quietly and gracefully move around the set become stage hands and sea waves alike.

Another devise that is cleverly used is puppetry. Jonty, Lydia’ s ventriloquist dummy has a way of allowing Lydia to say things that she herself would be too polite to say and Tom a none human outlet to talk to. One of the most poignant and tender moments is where Tom releases Jonty from his box and dances with him.

But there is humour throughout and more importantly at the right times, which keeps the production light yet poignant. From the delightful childlike questions of Jonty to the wonderful Johnny Cash song & dance routine to a collection of seals inoffensively adding to the happenings.
The introduction of Alex, Lydia’ s son (played by Sean Connell) brought a brief insight into the handling of grief, but as the rest of the piece, was very subtlety handled without the need for wailing and gnashing of teeth. FishHead is a beautiful and gentle look at subjects that are often either avoided or treated like Greek tragedies. Congrats to all involved. This is on tour until mid June.

Try to catch it if you can.


"All the best stories started at the sea," said Lydia. FishHead starts by the sea when Tom is washed ashore, almost drowned. The story of oysters, dreams and a puppet thus unfolds, with just three Perspex boxes as props.

We were on the beach; inside a small caravan; at the pub; and in a boat at sea. Three figures helped move us there, sometimes they were seals, sometimes rocks, sometimes something else, undefinable. Between the scenes with Tom and Lydia a radio interview with Tom filled in the gaps, the gaps in the story about oyster fishing.

FishHead is beautifully written and should not be explained but experienced. This was theatre that moved the emotions and asked questions of the head. It required it's audience to use their imaginations and open their hearts.

Lydia was underplayed with delicate sensitivity by Michelle Pogmore, an outstanding performance. Trev Fleming's Tom was desperate and afraid in perfect measure. Tiffany Hosking directed and also wrote this joyous uplifting story.

'FishHead,' (Hosking's programme notes) tells of living and dying well, of faith, of living one's dreams, and looking after one another.' Without sentimentality or preaching the story ended and the audience cheered like thunder.