by 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.