Fishskin Trousers review at Park Theatre, London – ‘rhapsodic’
Three figures face the audience from a circle of pebbles, shells, dried seaweed and other sea debris.
Mab (Jessica Carroll), clad in the dirty dress and apron of a 12th century servant, Ben (Brett Brown) in nerd-trendy 1970s wear, and Mog (Eva Traynor) in modern jeans and a jumper. Their positions in this charmed circle, existing somewhere between life and death, in the liminal space between the sea and the shore, overlap but, until they cross, they look only to the audience, never to one another.
Elizabeth Kuti’s Fishskin Trousers is a densely rhapsodic, image-plaited play set in the Suffolk coastal town of Orford.
Declamatory delivery and a torridly lyrical script renders the whole play fable-like and somewhat lacking in subtlety. Ben is perhaps the strongest character as his narrative is set up for laughs as much as drama, and Brett Brown is endearing as a talented geek fumbling his way through old trauma and new romance.
Mab gives us her eyewitness account of the Wild Man of Orford, a sort of merman caught by fisherman. Centuries later, Ben, the Australian radar scientist, is tormented by the death of his Stanford roommate and the strange noises he can hear on the island of Orford Ness, while Mog is about to turn 30, pregnant from an affair and unsure about her life’s direction.
Though Kuti’s writing tackles tragic and emotionally intense issues with a passionate earnestness, there’s a whiff of melodrama to Robert Price’s production.