Fish Food

Fri 4th – Sat 19th August 2017

reviews

Chloe Moloney

at 10:54 on 7th Aug 2017

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‘Fish Food’ is a tale of a young man starting out as a fledgling in the 1990 Boston hotel industry. Starting a new job in room service at the Grand Plaza Court Hotel, protagonist Joe Bacon (Desmond O’Halloran) is yanked this way and that by the unhinged team at his new workplace, and the ominous Avery Grand figure who edges Joe closer to criminal activity by degrees. Based loosely on the experiences of writer and director Michael O’Halloran, and for a production which sells itself particularly well on the premise of its humour and comedic strengths, ‘Fish Food’ has unfortunately fallen in my previous estimations.

It appears that the main fuel behind ‘Fish Food’s humour is the incessant inclusion of alcohol, drugs and sex. In a piece of new writing which had the potential to lean a little more towards the profound and insightful side, whilst staying true to the comedic strain which it so desires, these themes were unnecessarily wedged in and forced beyond belief. With jokes often falling flat with stony silence among the few audience members, it did become increasingly difficult to distinguish between moments of sincerity and sporadic humour.

Sexuality played an unusually large part in this production. During a practice phone operation with a make-believe customer, it was evident that the overt sexual nature of the conversation was a cue for laughter, but was met with glazed reticence. Similarly, Joe sleeping with both the perky and indefatigable Lana and the extravagant sommelier Bobby Carlo left the morning-after scenes incongruous with the core narrative thread, concerning itself with the unveiling of malicious business practice and the shifty presence of ‘dirty money’.

It appears that this play uses the vices of booze, sex and drugs to appeal to a grungier rock and roll lifestyle, as a contrast to the illustrious legacy of high-end hospitality. These efforts proved ineffectual, with one particular line standing out: ‘What’s the point? Love, sex, dancing…’ Joe asks. This indeed calls upon the fractured duality of ‘Fish Food’ – what is the true message of this production? Is it illuminating corporate greed or mocking the common normalities of drinking and sexuality? The quality of the performance dipped at moments which so urgently needed to be emphasised. Scenes which should have thrived with intense drama left a feeling of writhing pity for the downfall of performative potential. This having been said, the plotline was not challenging and transitions flowed nicely from scene to scene. Actress Molly O’Halloran was successful in bringing the production down from its boozy, luxury high-horse and injecting an ounce of reality into the play, with her refreshing portrayal of assistant Tiffany. Yes, the hospitality industry has its pitfalls, but the swathes of ill-matched thematic elements rendered this production unpolished.

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Ela Portnoy

at 11:05 on 7th Aug 2017

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‘Fish Food’ is a play about a young man venturing into adult life. He drops out of university, gets a job in a hotel and moves into a new flat. His colleagues are bonkers, his housemates are nuts and his grandma is loony. ‘Fish Food’ is an exploration of growing up and a celebration of human diversity. But the writing is cringeworthy. Joe is an innocent boy who falls into accidental crime and bad habits. That’s fine. But he gets pulled into one night stands with two of his colleagues – he is 21 whilst they are in their 50s or 60s. I found it uncomfortable that this was dealt with casually.

Having said that, for an amateur cast, the performances were not bad. Joe is an ignominious sap, naïve and characterless, but at least he was acted well. Eunice Simmons was a cringey sex-mad aunt figure as the hotel manager. She has humour and charm, and a nice bubbliness that she plays up. Uli (played by Miss Mary Mac) and Bobby Carlo (played by Geoffrey Pingree) both have great stage presence as the mock-finesse alcoholic duo who work at the hotel. Mac did a talented impression of a superstar cabaret performer, and Ringree of a flamboyant old man with a lifetime of experience under his belt. Joe’s grandmother was a surprisingly strong addition to the cast – shouting dementia-driven nonsense and scolding Joe for saying ‘toilet’ as she wandered round the flat looking for her fish, Doris. Tiffany is a bolshy and funny assistant to Lana who shows Joe how to drink beer and go clubbing. She, in her turn, is a skilled ukulele player and adept at accompanying Mac’s singing. The set was well-used too, with crates serving as multipurpose props. But the actors would do well to remember that although the fish bowl and jar of ashes are fake, they still need to hold them as if they are fragile and full of water or ashes, and not dangle them carelessly. Apart from this, the lighting worked well, although the stage was perhaps a little small for the large cast.

But the script was not particularly funny, and although it made a point, it had quite a jumbled and unclear plot line, which I struggled to follow fully. This is an appropriate piece of theatre for a community centre or a school play. Its performance was slick, the ensemble worked well together, and the pace was nice. All in all, a good effort.

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