Devised by Midlands-based Reaction Theatre Makers and currently on a UK tour, Fish Head features Impropriety’s own Trev Fleming in a dramatic role as Tom, an oyster fisherman facing ruin. Unable to keep up payments on his boat due to a number of poor harvests, he goes to the beach to attempt suicide before a chance encounter with a stranger helps him start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
His beach-side saviour is Lydia, a good-natured optimist enjoying the solitude to practice with her ventriloquist’s dummy Jonty. Tom finds himself compelled to seek her out again, and as she supports him to keep going in his fight to stop the bank remortgaging the boat and taking away his livelihood, he encourages her to perform with Jonty at the local pub’s cabaret night.
Writer and director Tiffany Hoskins’s bittersweet play is narrated with a pre-recorded voice over from Tom, as he appears on a local radio Desert Island Discs-type show recalling the inspiration Lydia provided at his darkest hour, and what he went on to achieve thanks to her. This allows for several musical interludes that lend themselves to everything from surreal fantasy scenes to a sombre soundtrack.
Fish Head is a play full of beautiful visual touches and imaginative physical scenes. The set is a large perspex cube that the cast perform in, around, and on; they are assisted in this by four stage hands-cum-Greek chorus, the selkies (based on mythical sea creatures). The oyster motif runs throughout and sometimes takes things over a bit; however, it is worth it as the story builds to a sweet and perfect conclusion.
As the heart and soul of the play Michelle Pogmore’s Lydia is a delight, and the show’s simple message about the importance of human connection leaves a lasting warm glow.