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Black Dog Gold Fish review at Hen and Chickens, London – ‘surreal and funny’

The cast of Black Dog Gold Fish at the Hen and Chickens, London. Photo: Zac Macro

The medium of dancing fish is one of the more unusual ways to tackle the issue of mental health on stage. Parrot in the Tank’s surrealist piece, Black Dog Gold Fish, tells the story of aquarium worker Remy who, in a zealous attempt to liberate the aquarium’s captives, squashes a goldfish. The ghost of the fish becomes a part of Remy’s guilt-ridden mind, a symbol of his depression as he pushes away his only friend, the work experience boy Kyle.

The world on stage is distorted as if through the glass of a fish bowl. Some things loom large in the refracted reality, like tennis ball pearls or the human-sized ghost of a goldfish (really a man in spandex). And every stage image, from the binbag-wrapped balloons that are jellyfish to the flickering fluorescent strip lights, contributes beautifully to the dreamy, trippy world of the show.

There’s a lovely incongruity between the three performers and their styles: Remy and the goldfish play the classic straight man/buffoon roles – and there’s a particularly feisty physical performance from Joe Boylan as the fish in a very revealing black unitard. They reflect each other, different sides of the same personality. Kyle Shephard as Kyle, on the other hand, is an outlier belonging more to the real world than to Remy’s dreamland. He is innocent, eager, friendly.

Through many fish dances and David Attenborough-aping narrations this Mighty Boosh style aquarium comes vividly alive. It’s a bizarre and often funny challenge to persistent and insidious stigmas.

Verdict
Surreal and funny exploration of mental health set in a bizarre aquarium 

Production

Production
Black Dog Gold Fish
Venue
Hen and Chickens
City
London
Starts
March 15, 2016
Ends
March 27, 2016
Press night
March 17, 2016
Authors
Sam Bailey
Director
Joe Connor, Sam Bailey
Set
Anisha Fields
Lighting
Sam Smith
Sound
Max Perryment
Technical
Jay Mobbs-Beal (technical manager)
Cast includes
Jo Boylan, Kyle Shephard, Andrea Foa
Producer
Eva Liparova, Parrot in the Tank
Running time
1hr