Review by Cynthia Ning
Friday night is when Sydney-siders let their hair loose or go on that much-anticipated date with a new potential catch. As with any enthusiastic theatregoer, we made our way over to the front row at the East Sydney Community and Arts Centre preparing for an intimate experience with the characters we were about to see on stage.
The spotlight closes in on a young English man (Adam Lee) relaxed with a beer who appears to be on a Tinder date at a crowded bar as he searches to find something to talk about with a lot of agreeable nods and ‘yeah …’ before stumbling on the topic of how he got into fishing. He perks up and colourfully describes the storm he fought after getting separated from his Contiki Tour group and winds up becoming a guest of a nun’s convent in a small fishing village of Saint-Cotriade in France.
The movements of the actors quickened for the scene change with a moving bed and closet as we were whisked away to his time at the village. The local nun (Madeline Baghurst) is fierce and bold with her entrance and delivery, using big gestures to reel him into shelter and giving directions in only French. Bernadette (Emily Ayoub) who lives with the nun has taken a vow of silence and enters with an innocent, gentle presence and is mortified to see a man in bed semi-nude fondling himself. She eventually warms up to the English backpacker and the sexual tension simmers each time they are near one another and lingers long after.
The set design was pragmatic and engineered to be malleable to the multiple transitions required for the story. It was quirky and fun to see the different ways a picture frame could be used, and the constant change of scenery kept the momentum of the plot going at a relatively fast pace. The emphasis on fishing being a metaphor to the dating culture of the 21st Century was refreshing and hilarious to see. Brilliant visual aspects such as the rotating closet of requirement, the still picturesque pose showcasing the holiness of the making of the beloved Cotriade dish and the tv screen depicting English subtitles felt like we were watching a French comedy romance. There was never a dull moment with these three characters.
Costumes were simple and effective in identifying each character and the province they were living in. The use of fake guts and blood on aprons amplified each part they played in going to extremes to find the perfect fish to make that delicious dish. The sound effects and music were effective and seamless within the performance; however, it drowned out some of the dialogue in which we wished the actors were equipped with lapel microphones as some of the jokes were too good to be missed.
A modern-day fairy tale with a twist where a boy meets a girl in a village and falls in love, but it simply wasn’t meant to be as the English backpacker finds himself returning to his present day in the bar, and finding out his date needs to go.
Support local Australian theatre companies creating uniquely resonating productions such as this. Go and see the works created by the dedicated people at Clockfire Theatre Co. and don’t let the perfect catch get away.