The Fishermen – Derby Theatre

Writer: Gbolahan Obisesan from the book by Chigozie Obioma

Director: Jack McNamara

Reviewer: James Garrington

Near a small town in Nigeria, there is a river. It’s so polluted that the children are forbidden to fish there; by the river, there lives a madman who tells prophecies. Despite the ban, some children go fishing anyway – and when the madman predicts that one brother will be killed by a fisherman, it sets a chain of events in motion that turns their world upside down.

The Fishermenhas a cast of two playing the brothers and all the other assorted characters in this one-act play, and Michael Ajao and Valentine Olukoga certainly invest a lot of themselves into their rôles in this immensely powerful production, creating a lot of energy and great physicality in their performances. The chemistry between the two is apparent, as they bounce off each other in switching rapidly from character to character as they move through a series of flashbacks, arguing about how people spoke or who said what and when, yet coming together to relive the traumas of their childhood.

The simple design by Amelia Jane Hankin consists of a platform and a series of poles – poles arranged vertically to create a barrier between the brothers that sometimes allows them to pass, and other times keeps them apart. The effect is enhanced by Amy Mae’s incredibly effective lighting which adds enormously to the atmospheric nature of the piece.

The production is not without its difficulties, however – and herein lies the fundamental problem. It’s often fast-paced, with switches between characters and time periods as the flashbacks take us through childhood memories, which in itself create a potentially confusing piece. When much of the dialogue is delivered so quietly, and too often aimed at the back of the stage rather than the audience, as to be frequently inaudible even for those sitting towards the front of the auditorium, then the potential for confusion becomes very real. It’s clear from what you are watching that there is an excellent production lurking in here, but if you can’t hear it then most of the hard work being done by the cast is wasted.

Runs Until 13 September and on tour | Image: Contributed

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Powerful, but inaudible

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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