A powerful, emotional and deeply moving theatre experience
Friday 9 Feb 2018
Any production by Tortoise in a Nutshell is guaranteed to leave its audience open mouthed with wonder. There particular brand of visual theatre blends movement, music, physical theatre, puppetry and immense amounts of imagination to create something which is always totally unique and thought provoking. This is particularly the case with Fisk, where every audience member will have watched it and interpreted it from their own unique perspective and yet all will have felt some kind of connection. There is no one storyline and no one correct interpretation - but it is a powerful, emotional and deeply moving theatre experience.
The production opens with a fragile paper boat on a silken ocean. On the boat a man is huddling with his few possessions and as the music builds and the waves rise the man stares into the darkness and prepares to leap into the sea... and then he is joined in the boat by a fish! Superficially that is all that happens and yet it is a vessel which explores so much more. The man is despairing, suicidal even and it is clearly a man on the brink. The fish is bright, lively and extremely irritating. She laughs, she dances and she coaxes the man to smile. She becomes his fantasy or perhaps represents his memory. She is the thing of the sea and unreality which actually anchors him to life and the need to persist in living. She does not present the answers to life but gives other options to the despair which threatens to overwhelm him and the dark mould of depression which grows on him and in him and colours everything around him. For those who have ever lived with depression, or lived with anyone who suffers from depression, this powerful imagery is particularly familiar and painful to watch as the illness begins to infiltrate every crevice and blur the edges of every experience.
The amazing rapport between the two actors is beautiful to watch, with some amusing movement sequences and others where the two meld together wonderfully. These are two very strong central performances, drawing you in to genuinely care about the survival of each of them. The soundscape too is integral to the performance: the susurration of the waves is hypnotic and blends with the cries and inner dialogue of the man in a way which is reminiscent of both dream and nightmare. Visually the piece is stunning with an amazing lighting programme. Gauzy sea billows around the fragile boat, mirrors reflect back the lights and sparkle. Set pieces too abound, a striking slow motion drowning sequence using both human and puppet, a slow corruption of water to darkness with the dying of light... In so many ways this is a feast for the senses, but what does it actually mean and what was it all about - well, there are as many answers to that as there were members of the audience.