A Fishy Tale

Review by Flossie Waite
A Hand to Mouth Production
Polka Theatre
Touring nationally until July 2015
For ages 4-9

In the theatre, anything is possible. Mermaids exist, lobsters can talk, and marine pollution is caused by a Litterbug using the sea as a dustbin, rather than humans and giant oil corporations. A Fishy Tale is a gentle, slow-paced production about being kind to the ocean.

When Martin (Martin Bridle) stays with his Auntie Dottie for the summer, he expects to spend his days beside the seaside. However, a visit to the beach becomes an adventure to save the sea, as a message in a bottle prompts Martin to sail into the horizon and find whoever wrote it.

We meet a number of characters on his travels, including a beautiful mermaid with shimmering hair, a wise talking lobster, and the Litterbug (who looks like a giant, evil headlouse). These different encounters become a bit confusing and draw away from the main narrative thrust of the production. That said, they are all beautiful puppets, and the flexible tails of the fish and mermaid are particularly effective.

Martin’s song about the sea – “the beautiful sea, deep green beautiful sea” – contrasts with the reality under the waves. Rather than delivering a hard-hitting moral, A Fishy Tale lightly introduces environmental issues. Deep under the sea, a parade of underwater creatures are created using everyday objects, like umbrella jellyfish. This becomes increasingly impactful as they are gradually replaced by shimmering pieces of rubbish; it takes a moment to assess whether they are meant to represent an animal or not, a thought process that sees a fish choke on a piece of foil it mistakes for food.

A Fishy Tale admirably simplifies and communicates its takeaway message. The same phrase is repeated again and again, throughout the production: “Someone should do something about it.” Eventually, Martin and his friends realise that ‘someone’ is, can and should be them. Whilst the production is aimed at 4-9 year olds, it is best suited to those at the younger end of the age range. This is a calm, thoughtful show without a hint of self-righteousness.

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