Writer: Sarah Pitard/Michael Ross
Director: Eyal Israel/Cat Robey
Reviewer: Fran Beaton
If feeling exceptionally right wing of an evening, probably give this play a miss. If you happen to be more to the left of the spectrum, then this exposé of British immigration policy will likely appeal to your political sensibilities.
Fresh off the Boat! consists of two one-act plays, examining the frustrations, injustices, and corruptions of immigration policy.
The first play is a touching true story of a British man and his American wife. Denied the right to live in the UK together, they move to Paris to reapply for a British visa. The inexplicability of their situation is shown in the frustration portrayed beautifully by the two main characters. Lee Lytle, as the American Amy, manages to keep the play upbeat while Brian (Paul Tonkin) provokes the audience’s empathy with his perpetual disappointments. Both performances are strong and the couple complement each other, though Lytle’s comic timing could be polished a bit.
The stylised direction of the piece is successful, particularly in the opening scene. The direct address to the audience is used very well, managing not to come across stilted or awkward.The cast of supporting characters really bring the play to life. Ruth Connelly’s dour immigration officer is particularly memorable for her steely expression and overwhelming stage presence.
The play, though short, tells a charming story and leaves the audience chuffed about the ending. However, Lytle’s reopening of the plot with the final monologue should be left out. It leaves the audience feeling exposed, assuming she is about to ask to sign a petition or donate money. It is incongruous with the rest of the performance.
The second play is the stronger of the two. Oliver Gatz as Richard steals the show with his impeccable wit and ability to charm the audience. His constant presence on the side of the stage is a nice directional choice, adding to the theatrical hyperbole of the piece.
Credit too must go to Antonia Reid and Matt Houlihan, who portray the middle class couple Chloe and Jake. A symbol of the blind destruction of the innocent, Reid and Houlihan are so convincing and witty in their portrayals, they somehow manage to get the audience to like them, despite their corrupt deeds.
This second piece really went for the political overtones, but in a way so subtle and alongside such successful comedy that the audience felt torn as to whether laugh or cry. It makes the audience question their political stance before they even realise they are doing it.
The intimate setting of the Hen and Chickens Theatre is ideal for these two pieces, forcing introspective reflection on behalf of the audience. Both plays have a lot to recommend them, indeed there was not a weak performance across the entire cast. The play leaves the audience feeling uncomfortable and questioning the morality of their country in a way both unprecedented and unexpected.