Big Fish – Edinburgh Fringe 2023, Assembly Rooms Music Hall, Edinburgh

Reviewer: Jennie Eyres

Book: John August

Music and Lyrics: Andrew Lippa

Big Fish is a musical adaptation of a mixture of the novel by Daniel Wallace and Tim Burton’s film. It requires a big cast, a band and a rather large number of props and set pieces – all of these things are unusual for an Edinburgh Fringe show. Something else that is unusual is Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s choice to run the show at its full length of 140 minutes, rather than abridging the narrative to fit the more generally accepted show length of around an hour. Both decisions however, pay off in spades in this delightful production bursting with talent and heart.

The story is about a travelling salesman Edward Bloom and his relationship with his son, Will. Edward is forever telling fantastical stories about his life, and Will grows up not knowing what is real and what is a myth. As he prepares to become a father himself, Will realises that he wants to understand more of who his father is and what his life was like. As Will embarks on a journey to find out more, Edward’s health deteriorates and it becomes even more important for Will to separate fact and fiction.

We see snippets of Edward’s life through the lens of the stories he told his six-year-old son, sometimes colourful, often crazy and always related to being a big fish in a small pond and the impact that he made on those around him.

Performances in this show are excellent, verging on the exceptional in some cases. Of particular note are Zach Ammon Peterson who plays Edward Bloom, Tommy Seymour who plays Young Edward and Linzi Devers who plays Sandra Bloom. These three were charismatic and interesting to watch, with rich, strong voices and real star quality. The depth of their character work was rewarded with a large number of the audience fully invested and in tears at the ending.

Ensemble numbers are beautifully choreographed by Sarah Wilkie, with fun and intricate dance moves executed with a real sense of cohesion by the cast. The ensemble sing and dance tirelessly in the musical numbers, but the full on dance moves do not impede the singing at all – harmonies are absolutely spot on, and the sound the cast make in unison is beautiful.

At the left hand side of the stage there is a table set up for foley sound effects, a thoughtful addition to the show at which different members of the cast make different sounds from the props on the table (think rain, horses hooves etc) to add to the layers of sound on stage.

There was very little wrong with this production, occasionally the odd Alabama accent slipped, and once or twice it was difficult to tell what a character was saying, but these are minor issues for a major, almost full-scale production. It is no mean feat to put on a show of this calibre at the Fringe, and given that five of the cast are also in an RCS studio production running up here too, it is nothing less than thoroughly impressive. A joyous way to spend a morning.

Runs until 27 August 2023 | Image: Contributed

The Reviews Hub Score

An absolute delight

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