Thursday, 15 February 2001

My Brother the Fish, Feb 15, 2001

by Dan Scollay and John Bolton
Feb 15, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

We are still charmed, even as adults, by a simple, well-told story. My Brother the Fish is just that; a poignant, evocative and sweet Irish tale performed by Dan Scollay and directed by John Bolton.

Scollay is a magnetic performer who trained with Bolton in clown and physical theatre. Together they take Helen Luke's story, Salmon Fisher Boy, and transform it into a delightful, entertaining and skilful theatrical journey.

Rosie is an Irish peasant girl who works gutting fish. She was born with a twin brother who is less than clever in school but has a magic touch with fishing. He is raised by their granny, drawn to the water, fails at school but fills his trawler with fish.

Scollay, dressed quaintly in a pair of Bond's knickers and a jumper, perches on a tin can and guts two fish in a bucket. Yes, really! As he creates Rosie, her brother, granny and the morose old fisherman, we catch the real scent of fish in the air. It is both disturbing and atmospheric.

Her vocal and physical versatility enhance the characterisations. She does not so much transform into the characters as sketch them with her voice and body. Her depiction of Sister Finnegan, the mean religious maniacal nun, is masterly.

Her comic and dramatic timing is impeccable. Scollay is relaxed as well as poised like a cat for every movement, every subtle shift of emphasis.

Of course, much of the strength of the piece is in the direction and co-writing of John Bolton. His hand is evident in the show's eccentric twists.

An extraordinary and unrecognisable style of musical squeeze-box features in two songs. Tiny objects, representing an eye and a human finger, are pulled from a bucket. A miniature train makes an epic journey and a giant salmon is filled with the moon and memorabilia.

A sensitive and subtle lighting and set design by Phil Burns completes the picture.

Scollay grabs us in the first moment and holds our attention for fifty minutes. She has a sweet singing voice and manages to people the stage with characters in this engaging and joyful tale.

By Kate Herbert

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