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Thing-Fish

Frank Zappa
Stagecraft Entertainment at Battersea Arts Centre
(2003)

As might have been expected, Frank Zappa's only musical is very weird and massively self-indulgent. German actor-director Wolf Rahlfs has achieved a long-term ambition by bringing it onto a stage.

The plot isn't always crystal clear but it involves two Broadway theatregoers, Harry (Chris Thompson) and Rhonda (Deborah Jeffrey), who get sucked into a nightmarish show in which they meet Thing-Fish (Daniel Knapp) and his mammies, creatures in little girls' clothes with large potato heads and duck-bills. Harry and Rhonda also see their younger selves and achieve possibly unwanted self-knowledge.

The mammy nuns are opposed by an Evil Prince (Chris Rogers), a character that might have been played by Jerry Lewis in Nutty Professor mode. He is a part-time theatre critic and has a team of strange Broadway zombies.

As the play develops, through an interval during which carefully selected audience members receive portions of Smash and past a pantomime session where the audience is split into "gay" and "straight", we eventually find that the whole trip has been a metaphor for Harry and Rhonda's wildest sexual fantasies.

The action is accompanied by a live quartet playing Zappa-music and a compere (Huw Thomas) to keep things warmed up. Thing-Fish presents an amazing and sometimes very witty spectacle that will be of particular interest to the legions of Zappa fans who inhabit his strange mental world.

"Thing-Fish" runs at BAC until 30th August

Reviewer: Philip Fisher