Ahoy maties! Grab your waders and sou’wester because we’re climbing aboard the Puppet Theatre Barge for an evening of hilarious absurdity, joyfully weird clowning and comedy that will leave you heart-warmed and happy!
With not an active puppet in sight, the beautifully intimate space of the Barge lends itself wonderfully to a sea-based cabaret, especially with a nice glass of red in one hand. The unique space is already awash with the sound of lively sea shanties as we enter to take our seats, setting sail for a fun adventure.
Coral Bevan is Fisherman Jon, a lonely soul who has spent far too long in solitude with just his rod for company, as we quickly find out…! He is clearly a woman with a beard badly drawn on, teeth blacked out and a ridiculous west country accent. Searching for love, Jon falls for a carp and becomes romantically involved, before a tragic shipwreck separates them and he ends up in a nasty old cave where a mermaid/siren from his past haunts and taunts him, telling him he is not worthy of love. But with the help of the carp and a supportive audience, he comes to realise even silly old Jon can – and deserves to – be loved.
This is a totally absurd, incredibly silly performance from Bevan, filled with clowning and cheekiness. It’s risqué and rude at times, charming and cheerful at others, but come the end it offers a surprisingly powerful message that really took me pleasantly by surprise.
Bevan’s superb clowning performance is sharp and incisively perceptive, with audience engagement that is masterful and heart-warming. She selects one spectator to become Jon’s carp sweetheart and tonight Yusef gives a masterful, intuitive performance – off the scales, you might say… She has the audience participating further by blowing bubbles when Jon goes underwater, and we are emotionally drawn in by his gentle naivety and vulnerability, such that we can’t help but like him. When he’s in peril or being hard on himself we are quick to cry out in protective support.
Because the show is so ridiculous and funny, it’s easy to overlook the important connections threaded throughout, but Bevan uses the silliness as a mask, subtly preparing a space in which to deliver a valuable message about identity. It’s clear that Jon is a woman dressed as a man, and we laugh. The evil siren in the cave is then a female, cackling creation of his own insecurities, played brilliantly over the top by Bevan, with boob tape and shiny shells emphasising feminity. The carp is a female played by a male. It’s all very convoluted and I was adrift in absurdity for most of the show, wondering where it could possibly go. Which is why the concluding message behind these themes of confused identity is so effective. In watching a woman playing a man playing a half fish/half woman and ultimately finding love with a man playing a female carp, and in blowing bubbles and cheering Jon on, we’re part of a story of how it’s actually fine to be whatever you are – male, female, fish, both: it doesn’t matter. Love a fish if you want to! Find love where you can! Ridiculous perhaps, but so true.
This is a joyfully funny piece of work with a huge heart and whiskers! It’s a clever aquatic cabaret celebrating acceptance and kindness, so what’s not to love?
Written by: Coral Bevan, Ricky Hunt and David Alwyn
Directed by: Ricky Hunt and David Alwyn.
Fisherman Jon: What’s On The End Of My Rod? runs at the Puppet Theatre Barge until Friday 17 November. Further information and bookings can be found here.