There is always a play at the Edinburgh Fringe in the Pleasance Grand which takes the breath away and succeeds on a truly epic scale. I’ve seen physical theatre gods Gecko blow the roof off this theatre on a number of occasions and, this year, it is the turn of Fishbowl, a co-production by Stories in Theatre Productions and Le Fils du Grand Réseau.
Written and directed by Pierre Guillois, Fishbowl’s marketing campaign promises ‘Charlie Chaplin meets Mr. Bean, in Friends’ and the image this conjures of surreal sitcom-worthy clowning is certainly apt. This wordless play follows the interconnected lives of three flatmates in their rooftop bedsits, with walls so thin and rooms so small that overlap is inevitable. The three characters are suitably different enough to make these moments both hilarious and touching.
“A spectacular silent sitcom”
In one corner, we have a sharp-dressed, suit-wearing neat freak who enjoys karaoke and a spotless room. In the middle is a bearded, bird-watching enthusiast whose room is littered with debris and packing cases. On the other side, there is a glamorous blonde who sunbathes on the roof and aspires to have her own beauty line. While each fulfils an archetype, Fishbowl succeeds in debunking these stereotypes and will resonate with anyone who has ever lived in a shared environment such as university halls where friendships brew regardless of background and disposition.
There are too many extraordinary scenes in this production to name but I was particularly impressed by two extended sequences. Firstly, a party takes place in which the three characters interact together for the first time. The two men are intent on wooing the women and each attempt to do so while the other is occupied in the onstage toilet. However, the two men end up ‘together’ playing a Wii tennis game which makes it sounds, to woman’s ears, as though it is they who are having sex. While being extremely funny and ironic, it also delivers an excellent satire of men vying for female attention only to end up spending more time with each other.
Secondly, there is a wordless ‘passing of time’ sequence set to a charming indie rock soundtrack in which we see the relationships between the three flatmates shift and change over time. It is strangely moving and truly reflects how the feelings between strangers turned companions can warp and change due to complicated feelings and cramped conditions.
Fishbowl is a spectacular silent sitcom with three exceptional performances rooted in clowning and slapstick comedy, featuring exceptional set, lighting and sound design. The cast and team are surely set for greatness and you should see the show for an injection of moving and hilarious physical theatre.
Fishbowl finishes its run at Pleasance Courtyard – The Grand at 13:00 on 26th August.
Image: Fabienne Rappeneau