Fishead from a FringeGuru

Ting Lan

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.