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Girl in the Goldfish Bowl

Morris Panych
European premiere
Crucible Theatre Studio, Sheffield
(2005)

Girl in the Goldfish Bowl logo

At first separated from the set by a flimsy billowing curtain, with sound and sight of bubbles of water up one side, the audience in the Studio quickly became part of the scene as the young heroine, 12 year old Iris, told how she was in the last days of her childhood. The play included death, of a goldfish, nudity - for ten seconds, so blink and you miss it - and air raid practice, taking place in Canada in 1962 - was that when Russia had its eye on Cuba and the United States?

Iris, played by Kirsty Bushell, is more than credible as a twelve year old schoolgirl, indoctrinated by the nuns at her Catholic school to voice ideas to which she manifestly does not subscribe. Her initial sadness is caused by the absence of her goldfish who went down the drain. She welcomes the arrival of Mr. Lawrence (Ferdy Roberts), clad in her father's dressing gown, and unperturbed when her father demands it back to reveal his nakedness. She identifies him as her lost goldfish, recognising a fishlike skin, and he obliges with suitable mouth movements. She offers him one of their lady lodger's pills; they always make her feel more human.

Her father (Graham Turner), a handicapped veteran of the War who has never worked since and occupies himself with geometrical drawings, has finally caused his wife, Sylvia (Jessica Turner) to pack up and leave home; but she changes her mind, at least for the duration of the play. He is sure the stranger is an escaped lunatic, unconvinced after telephone calls to nearby mental hospitals who say they have no-one missing. Miss Rose (Nancy Crane), their alcoholic lodger is the one who works, going off to the nearby canning factory. It is trite to call them a dysfunctional family, but any neophyte social worker or psychiatrist would have difficulty in choosing any alternative - what do you say to a man who asks whether anyone has seen the rope he tried to hang himself with last year?

The goldfish bowl appears briefly - it is a snapshot play defining the change from childhood to adulthood in a precocious youngster who will have to escape from the encasement of the bowl in which they all swim so irrelevantly. Undoubtedly Iris carries the play and it is difficult to believe that any group of adults could survive in her presence for longer than the two hours of the performance.

"Girl in the Goldfish Bowl" runs until 9th April

Reviewer: Philip Seager