Written by Canadian, Morris Panych and directed by Peter Green, ‘Girl in the Goldfish Bowl’ is a black, absurdist comedy, memory play on at the Bakehouse Theatre until May 4.
‘Girl in the Goldfish Bowl’ follows a young girl Iris, whose goldfish has died, her rather odd parents, an alcoholic lodger, an amnesiac that the child finds washed up on the beach and takes home and the bizarre events that follow.
Set in 1962, with the imminent threat of nuclear war due to the Cuban missile crisis, it is appropriate that Panych has settled on an absurdist approach, a prevailing movement in the 1950s and 60s.
Almost eleven years old, Iris is a precocious girl whose father, in desperation, insists that she limits herself to words that contain no more letters than her age. She keeps a journal in which she records her thoughts and observations.
Her father Owen, lives in his pyjamas and sits at his drawing board, creating geometrical shapes and dreaming of leaving to live in Paris. Her mother Sylvia was leaving him when she broke her wrist and is therefore still there. Neither of them mention this.
Their long term boarder (and Iris’s godless godmother) Miss Rose, works at filleting fish for the local cannery, takes endless lavender baths trying to lose the smell, and goes nightly to the local RSL.
The sudden appearance of the stranger Mr. Lawrence, found washed up on the beach by Iris, begins a change process. Iris brings him home convinced that he is the reincarnation of her goldfish, Amahl, come to unite her family.
Miranda Pike’s Iris is full of the youthful energy, inquisitiveness and verbosity of a child, presented in a bravura performance. Pike does an outstanding job in this enormous and critical central role.
In a superb performance, Romina Verdiglione gives Sylvia a detached, emotionless presence within the family, her spirits picking up only when Mr. Lawrence arrives.
Patrick Clements portrays Owen, giving a strong performance as a lost soul, absorbed in his pointless pursuits to avoid any interaction.
Bronwen James is marvellous as Miss Rose, a somewhat nosey and promiscuous alcoholic. This is a role that gives her plenty of opportunities to shine in a performance that allows us to see the cracks in the fragile façade that Miss Rose tries to maintain.
Scott Perry’s Mr. Lawrence is a very fine characterisation. His character is bewildered, vaguely incoherent and frightened by unfolding events.
Manda Webber’s set design is more elaborate than those generally seen in the Bakehouse. It uses a full box set with furniture from both the 1930s and the 1960s. This is matched to the music during the show, covering the Big Band era of the 30s as well as reaching forward to the 60s and Acker Bilk’s Stranger on the Shore. Stephen Dean’s excellent lighting is also a vital part of this production, adding a great deal to the atmosphere.
Make every effort to see this engaging work while you can.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide
Venue: Bakehouse Theatre, Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: to Saturday 4th May 2013
Duration: 1hr 30min plus intvl.
Tickets: $15 to $28