Plenty of Fish in the Sea is a quirky, poetic and highly original piece of theatre that explores this idiom in a humorous and absurdist way. Conceived and performed by Clockfire Theatre Production, the play takes the audience on an allegorical journey to a small Catholic fishing village in northern France, where religion simmers with romance and some divine fish stew served on the side. The result is exciting, fresh and very appetising.
The premise centres around an English backpacker (Adam Lee) finding himself stranded in unfamiliar territory in the fictional fishing village of Saint-Cotriade, so named after the patron saint of fish. He drifts into a convent run by a peculiar but charitable nun (Madeline Baghurst) and her acolyte Bernadette (Emily Ayoub) who has taken a vow of silence. After an awkward introduction they quickly get down to the business of finding the greatest catch of all to make the best cotriade fish stew in honour of Saint-Cotriade.
This simple and charming story has echoes of Hemingway, Lewis Carroll and those lovely French movies that play every year on Valentine’s Day (Chocolat comes to mind). It’s apt (or perhaps coincidental) that this play is being performed in the Piscean month of February at a venue called The Flying Nun in Darlinghurst. It certainly adds to the religious context that many of Jesus’ followers were fishermen who were struggling to catch anything until Jesus commanded them to ‘throw their net on the other side’, yielding an enormous abundance of fish. The play draws a metaphor between the parable and modern day frustrations with finding the perfect catch in an endless sea of dating apps, technology and shallow hook-up culture.
Emily Ayoub and Madeline Baghurst draw on their own experiences in France to deliver authentically rich performances. Baghurst’s beatified expressions and flawless French makes her extremely believable as the nun while Ayoub is piously modest yet flushed with curiosity at the handsome young Englishman. Adam Lee as the drifting visitor / narrator also delivers an authentic cockney performance that drew quite a few laughs.
The minimalist staging included a picture frame for a window, a bed doubling up as a boat and a revolving cupboard that cleverly contained a kitchen and the nun’s sleeping quarters. Seeing these be shifted around the stage with perfectly-timed sound effects made it quite a lot of fun to watch and makes you appreciate innovative set design that much more.
At a brisk 50-mins duration, the play kept the audience hooked all the way through an absurdist escapade that included a brief raunchy scene and some rather wild fishing props. The audience appreciated this gem served up with hearty humour that left them wanting to come back for more.
Plenty of Fish in the Sea is playing till 11 February at The Flying Nun in Darlinghurst. For tickets and showtimes go to https://www.clockfiretheatre.com/plenty-of-fish-in-the-sea
Image credit: Geoff Magee