New Perspectives Theatre Company, June 2012
Director: Tilly Branson
Designers: Natalie Ellis and Bethany Wells
Lighting Designer: Jeremy Rowe
Dramaturg: Gareth Morgan
Production Manager: Mandy Ivory-Castile
Stage Manager and Assistant Production Manager: Jenny Crowder
Cast: Subika Anwar, Alexandra Bradley, Georgie Elsom, Lesley Emery, Becci Hooper, Matthew Heseltine, Selina Scott-Bennin, Ollie Smith
Written by: Jane Upton, Hugh Dichmont, Cathy Grindrod, Monika Johnson, Beth Shouler
“It is easier to die than to remember.” Briggflatts Basil Bunting.
Goldfish. New Perspectives, The Guildhall, Derby 21st June 2012
The poet Basil Bunting was an ageing writer when he made his observation highlighting the difficulties associated with memory. The team from New Perspectives which put together and performed Goldfish may not have his longevity but they lack little in intelligence and imagination. Goldfish acknowledges that ‘memory is a murky world’ in its subtitle but their exploration of the territory is subtle and engaging. The format brings together an ensemble of twelve participants from the STEP UP Creatives training programme and utilises five scripts chosen from the DREAM UP competition which invited writers to consider the question ‘How can I remember things I never knew?’ Director Tilly Branson notes that ‘the challenge has been to find the common threads and themes which link all of the scripts; drawing them together into a piece which showcases the unique voice of each writer, as well as the skills and input of the ensemble’. Branson sets a high bar – one which she and the company attack with skill and courage.
The result is an intelligent and intriguing production. It moves through time and place from one story to another with the actors taking on different roles whether in a family reunion drama, a strange meeting on a train, a South African photo-journalist, a three sibling mini morality play and an epidemic of the young unemployed. Memory is hard enough to manage well in one production and taking on five interweaving tales could have had alarming results. Not here as the basic understanding of the main theme is sound enough to carry us through – a feat which shows Branson as a promising director with her hands securely on the helm. The repeated use of ‘smoke and mirrors’ is both deft and pleasing. The writers of the five scripts are to be applauded for providing rich material. I particularly liked the competitions winner ‘You, me and the rest of them’ from Jane Upton. The first meeting of a fifteen year old daughter with her mother not only handles the obvious and surface issues well but has a dark and menacing subtext which is only hinted at but is powerful all the same. Lesley Emery’s ‘Sue’, the mum, gives us a disturbing portrait of the sentimental mother figure who can switch to sulk and spite in a moment. I felt ‘Achievable’ the story of three young women struggling with unemployment could be improved. For me it lacked the depth and subtlety of the other dramas drawing more on stereotype than on a development of character. Such an approach may well have been deliberately chosen but nevertheless I found it hard to relate to her protagonists.
This was their first night and I hope the first of many. Goldfish is an assured production already and with a little ironing will be very fine indeed. Don’t forget .. write it down on your list .. ‘Go and see Goldfish’