Existential Fish and Dread by Martha Reed, presented by the Bread and Roses Theatre
What is it?
A One Act, two-hander coming in at just under an hour. The Bread and Roses Theatre is a great venue for a piece like this because it gives a certain intimacy which allows an audience to watch on as almost a by-stander, or a third character, as the duologue unfolds in front of you. The piece is set in an aquarium, (one of the characters mistakenly ends up here instead of a ‘planetarium’ through the fault of Siri which is a humorous set up for an unusual location) and with only a simple projection of rippling water and a few beautiful handmade metal fishes hanging from the ceiling, the simplicity of it all really takes you in to exactly where you are supposed to be right from the offset.
What is it about?
The play opens with Martin (played by Mark Kitto) who has just found out that Stephen Hawkins has died, which causes him to spiral in to an existential crisis. Seeking meaning, he wanders to an aquarium accidentally, where he meets Ellie, (Natalie Durkin) who works there. (Later we find out she is actually studying for her PhD in Astrophysics) The two wrestle with the big questions of life and existence, but also share a very intimate connection talking and arguing about the smaller things, what really matters and the real reason Martin is struggling to find these answers within himself. The play feels perfectly timed, with a certain finesse in its script that heightens it from just a simple two hander- the piece really resonates and so does its likeable and quirky characters.
How did it make me feel?
Any play with existentialism as a theme is going to leave you wandering back to the tube with your head spinning… well this piece certainly did for me! But aside from raising questions and grappling with themes that are literally bigger than we can comprehend, the play, at its heart is about two strangers standing opposite each other trying to find out who they are, and what the point is in everything (or in fact if there even is a point at all). I think that’s where the piece is strongest, because Martha Reed has excellently and tragically at times created three dimensional, genuine, human characters (performed to a very high standard by both actors) who are just looking for answers, and meaning within themselves and each other in this magnificent and flawed universe we find ourselves in. It makes one feel lonely but completely not alone at the same time, like ying and yang collided.
Where is it playing?
Having had a run at ‘The Bread and Roses Theatre’ in Clapham this August, this was a one off showing sadly. Hopefully from this though there will be future life and longer run in 2020- it thoroughly deserves it and I hope to watch the next stages of its development next year.
Like I say, definitely keep an eye out for this in any form over the next few months, or indeed anything else from Martha Reed as a writer. Currently Chippy Lane’s writing apprentice, the strength that lies in her witty yet poignant dialogue is fresh and clever, I’ll be buying tickets to the next thing with her name attached for sure.
Existential Fish and Dread played at the Bread and Roses Theatre on the 25th November 2019.
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