Fish

August 25, 2019 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆  Surprisingly dry

Summerhall (Venue 26): Thurs 1– Sun 25 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Fish by Shinehouse Theatre as part of the Taiwan Season at Summerhall, is an attractive production which remains a curiosity rather than a vital piece of theatre.

It is, of course, a mistake to review a show on the basis of what you expect it to be. However, in the Fringe, with so many vying for space, the way a play describes itself is vitally important. So when a show promises puppetry and is apparently ‘aimed at, but no means limited to, hearing-impaired audiences’, you would be forgiven for expecting a production relying on visual impact, indeed even a largely wordless one.

A scene from Fish. Pic Lucas Kao

There is certainly a strong visual appeal to proceedings, with a beautifully rendered puppet representing the main character of a boy who is attempting to bring a fish to his grandparents, in a play based on a story by Taiwanese writer Huang Chun-Ming. But the main impression is how wordy it all is.

The dialogue is signed and translated on surtitles. However, the placing of the titles is far from ideal – often they are obscured by the performers, and it is an effort to read them. Even if they can be seen, the problem does not end, as the translation is often on the inaccurate side of idiosyncratic. This means that they need to be read several times for the meaning to emerge.

There are other things that take some getting used to. To Western audiences, the performance style seems declamatory, verging on the melodramatic. The story that does unfold also appears odd, with the treatment of the boy by his grandparents problematic, particularly for younger attendees.

considerable charm

Director Chung Po-Yuan has fashioned a production of considerable charm, but is less than compelling nature is not only down to cultural differences. Wang Hsin-Pei and Chang Yi-Ching’s puppetry is particularly impressive, but otherwise the movement on stage is not as sharp as it could be.

This contributes to a curiously staid, dry tone that works against the narrative. The opening few moments, when other performers contribute to the effect of the puppet on a bicycle, have a magical feel that is never achieved again. This means that the production, while always of interest, never becomes truly absorbing.

Running time 40 minutes (no interval)
Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, EH91PL (Venue 26)
Thursday 1 – Sunday 25 August 2019
Daily (not Mondays) at 12.00 noon
Tickets and details: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/taiwan-season-fish

Facebook: @shinehousetheatre
Twitter: @ShinehouseTW

A scene from Fish. Pic: Lucas Kao

ENDS

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