Stuck on an international flight when she learns that her life has been spectacularly derailed, data analyst Lisa grapples with overwhelming feelings of powerlessness in A Kettle of Fish, a contemplative but chaotic monologue from Brad Birch.
As with his previous play, Tremor, which ran at Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre earlier this year, there is a sense of nebulous forces at work in the background, here. Vaguely defined disasters. Difficult relationships left unexplored. There is a pleasing boldness in this refusal to offer answers, but too often the effect is less intriguing than it is exasperating.
Director Caitlin McLeod works to create a sense of claustrophobic intensity, an effect heightened by Max Pappenheim’s moody soundscape. Delivered via headphones, this features sampled voices and buzzing flies, electronic screeches, and a constant backdrop of droning engines.
Wendy Kweh performs the piece with admirable clarity, layering legible emotions onto the deliberately obtuse text, charting a clear path from tightly-wound to full scale psychotic break.
A crisp design by Ingrid Hu splits the space into three sterile sets, depicting a minimalist home, an airplane cabin, and a blank cube curtained with gauze which acts as a screen for projections. Video segments designed by Tegid Cartwright alternate between closeups of fidgeting bodies, and ambiguous shots of rustling foliage or distant landscapes.
However, none of these elements really gel. It’s telling that the show’s most affecting moment comes only when Kweh turns off her mic and addresses the audience against a backdrop of resonant silence.