Review: Fishbowl

DDF’s Fishbowl explores a complex portrait of family relationships, and a realistically difficult depiction of a bond between sisters. Lowri Mathias’ writing is vivid and emotionally charged, portraying the tragedies of everyday life and the struggle of growing up with the fear of being left behind.

It follows Eilidh, a girl who has just finished school and is in a limbo state without any sort of drive to do anything with her life. Her elder sister, and hero, Fiona has abandoned her to start a new life, and the play tracks their confrontation as they try and manoeuvre this new separation.

It opened with a lengthy monologue from the main character Eilidh, played by Mary Lord, reflecting on a moment when she witnesses the abuse of a girl at a bus stop, but fails to step in and prevent her from getting hurt. This incident cleverly ties in with the rest of the play, and the way that Eilidh seems to allow her life to slip away without taking any definitive action. Lord held this difficult scene well, and made it seem almost natural, despite the conscious breaking of the fourth wall. It could have been a little shorter, however it was very well written and one of the scenes in which Lord’s acting was at its best. Some of the later, more emotional scenes were slightly less convincing, but in her defence the intensity, and tears, required, made it a highly demanding part.

Harrison Newham was excellent in the part of the Fiona’s boyfriend, who was a realistically flawed character, seemingly meaning well, yet acting incredibly condescendingly and talking way too much. His part also provided a little bit of comic relief to an otherwise intense play, the cast played well of each other when they were all on stage. The focus of the play, however, remained on the dynamic between the two sisters. Their relationship was well done and convincingly portrayed, so that both opposing sides were understood and sympathised with by the audience. Eilidh sister Fiona was played by Isabella Thompson, and again the acting and writing was convincing and successfully created a believable, three-dimensional character. She was given space in the play to voice her side of the argument, an important part of the play which made the audience a lot more sympathetic towards her and complicated their response to Eilidh. It is easy to relate to not only Eilidh’s experience of being left-behind and directionless, but also Fiona’s feeling that she is being suffocated by the demands and dependency of her family.

I would have liked a bit more backstory, exploring the mother’s issues which were alluded to but never discussed, but I guess there is only so much you can say in fifty minutes. She was not quite as fleshed out as the sisters, and on stage she seemed like a peacemaker and well-meaning, if a little fumbling, parent, so it seemed a little incongruous from what we saw that she would have serious enough problems to have driven her eldest daughter out of the house. Katie Cervenak portrayal of her was excellent however, and the mystery surrounding her past mistakes contrasted with the overreliance on looking back at Eilidh and Fiona’s childhood relationship.

Although perhaps not a ground-breaking premise, Fishbowl was well executed and smartly done, with insightful writing and solid cast which made overall an exceptional piece of student theatre.

Fishbowl is on again tonight and Saturday night, at 7:30pm in Caedmon Hall, Hilde Bede.

By Isabel Carmichael-Davis

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