There’s less toilet humour and more spoken dialogue in an episode of Mr Bean than there is in Fishbowl, a slapstick comedy that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to achieve, pulling in the laughs to a family-friendly audience. Three people with (perhaps typically) wildly different interests and personalities, live in adjacent apartments. Stage left is a woman who appears to have half a dozen different part-time jobs on the go, none of which she does particularly well. Stage right is a man who lives in a minimalistic looking property, but it actually transpires that he likes his technological gadgets (he can, for instance, click his fingers to switch the lights off). In the middle is a man who clearly doesn’t like throwing things away, and somehow keeps hurting himself.
In terms of storyline, there’s not much going on beyond the relatively mundane, but it is the context seems to act as a springboard for hilarity. There is nothing unusual, for instance, about putting clothes out to dry. But why do so in the middle of a significantly gusty wind? The only feasible reason that comes to mind is that it makes good theatre. It is also highly accessible theatre, with sophistication in the form of the kind of split-second timing that brilliant farces are known for. The young lady in the housing block is inept when it comes to dispensing either haircare or physiotherapy, but she’s pretty, y’see, so the lads are nonetheless always happy to see her.
It did start to drag for me towards the end, but there’s much to enjoy regardless – and the show redeemed itself somewhat with the very final scene. As well as having a toilet that automatically pulls out of its cupboard with a handclap (its two claps for it to retreat), a nifty bit of stage engineering in its own right, the Gadget Man is prone to computer games and to karaoke. If all that wasn’t enough, the other chap buys a pet rabbit and raises it, though vegans and vegetarians will not be pleased with what eventually happens to it. There’s some dancing of various kinds to enjoy when all three decide they are going to get along after all, if only for one night.
It is possible to infer deeper and wider meanings from the on-stage absurdity – it is only by living in close proximity, for instance, that people get to know one another in ways that would not be possible otherwise. At least some praise must also go to the set designer Laura Léonard – if anything, with so many shows at the Edinburgh Fringe that don’t require much in the way of set, it’s almost refreshing to come across a show that relies on it to the point where it is effectively a fourth character. A highly amusing and engaging piece of theatre.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Winner of France’s Molière Award for Best Comedy Play 2017, Fishbowl now makes its UK premiere, bringing its farcical antics and physical comedy extravaganza to Pleasance Grand. In perfectly choreographed pandemonium, it follows the hilarious misadventures of three eccentric and lovable anti-heroes as they spectacularly fail at life in their wacky rooftop bedsits.
Booking to 26th August 2019