Pleasance Courtyard, The Green
Salmon is something of a superfood. It’s nutritionally dense, got plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and is packed full of vitamin D. WebMD also vaguely informs me that salmon can protect against ‘some forms of cancer’ – impressive stuff. But all of these benefits pale in comparison to those derived by Irish mythological warrior Fionn MacCumhaill. Fionn didn’t eat just any salmon though, not Atlantic, sockeye, or even pink. Fionn ate The Salmon of Knowledge and with it gained not just a dose of protein and healthy fats – he gained the Entire Knowledge of the Universe. What did he do with such information? Turns out not a lot. He didn’t travel through time. He didn’t kill baby Hitler. He didn’t even warn us of the impending climate apocalypse.
And that’s what My Lover Was a Salmon in the Climate Apocalypse is bothered about. Described as a ‘gig theatre call to arms’, we are welcomed into the theatre by the folksy music of Finn, Sam and Fiona (played with great skill by Rory Gradon, Elisabeth Flett, and Elinor Peregrin, respectively). The three are hugely talented musicians and confidently introduce us to their band with the folk ballad of Fionn MacCumhaill and The Salmon of Knowledge. One band member in particular is amusingly fixated with the injustices wrought upon the salmon of the story, in fact he won’t stop spouting on about this salmon. And about how he loves the salmon. About how we all are the salmon, if we really think about it. Think semi-coherent Russell Brand. It’s kind of deranged and really pulls at the established form of the production thus far, making me wonder if this is a personal ad-lib or actually the performance itself. Much to my amusement, it’s the latter.
It’s clear that the stress Finn is under – what’s making him want to be a salmon – is the overwhelming nature of the climate crisis and the vast wells of information we have at our fingertips through modern media. The salmon is a vector for all of the angst, fear and guilt our millennial generation carries round with them. In the face of so many lifestyle options, with no clearly correct choices (are avocados ethical or not?) and so many ethical minefields (is palm oil ok?) Finn has concluded that just becoming a salmon is the only way to take ultimate responsibility for his part in human-effected climate change. This hysteria is really fun to watch – at one point I appear to be clapping along and singing the lyrics “we are all salmon” – and highlights the impossibility of a personal solution to such a global problem.
The production weaves its storytelling expertly, moving effortlessly between the folk-y music, relatable individual panic, and mythology. As a backdrop to this, Fett is called upon to provide myriad musical leitmotifs to set the scene – something she is straight up incredible at. The way this show traverses different forms and keeps you absorbed is a masterclass of gig theatre. The piece is suffused with the panic of the climate crisis, and whilst I found it more of a cry for help than a call to arms, it’s certainly a lot of fun.
Written by James Ireland
Directed by Kate Bauer
Produced by James Ireland & Bradán Theatre
My Lover Was a Salmon in the Climate Apocalypse played at EdFringe 2022.
The show will next be playing at The Cockpit on 10 & 11 November, further information available here.