REVIEW: Watching goldfish suffocate, Kings Arms, GM Fringe 2017

Andrew Riley went along to the Kings Arms in Salford to watch Vertigo Theatre Productions new staging of “Watching Goldfish Suffocate” Was it worth the trip? Read on…

Every so often, there comes along a piece of work that changes how you feel or think about certain things.

Watching Goldfish Suffocate is such a piece of theatre.

Many a real life tale has been told on stage across the years, but very rarely has a play captured the current mood of change as this does.

Mental health affects one in four people in the UK, and to suffer the way co-writer David Degiorgio has, and to then put it out there for everyone to see takes not only skill, but real guts.

The stigma around Mens mental health is one of the current cause célèbre that has been taken up at all levels with artists, politicians and sports personalities getting involved.

Directed by Craig Hepworth with minimal staging, this play shows Davids descent into paranoia, anxiety, psychosis and his return to health.

It’s a show that not only deserves the rave reviews it achieved last time out, but should be seen by as wide an audience as possible.

It must be difficult to direct someone who is playing you, but in Joe Slack, Craig Hepworth has a very capable an accomplished actor who is able to switch between multiple roles with such ease, its possible to believe that there may be more than one Joe in the show.

Joe Slack
Joe Slack

Playing himself, David Digiorgio is a towering presence on the stage. Because this IS his story, it makes his performance even better, because there is no doubting his every nuanced move and infliction is torn from the very depths of his own experiences.

As we watch his descent into his own personal hell, we meet his inner demon, played by the extremely able Benjamin Corry, who is so evilly lit, you can feel him creeping over your own shoulder when not creeping over David’s.

Benjamin Corry and David Degiorgio
Benjamin Corry and David Degiorgio

The cast is finished off with Celine Constantinides, who wonderfully leaps between characters with the same ease as the rest of the players.

Celine Constantinides and David in Watching Goldfish Suffocate
Celine Constantinides and David in Watching Goldfish Suffocate

This play has sold out its run at the Greater Manchester Fringe, and rightly so. By the time we arrived at the interval, both I and my guest were left regretting not bringing along tissues more than once.

The play is effectively divided into Davids decent into illness, and then his resurrection from hospital into deciding to write the play with Craig.

The fine line between humour and drama can be difficult to tread, and this could be a macabre experience if handled wrongly, however in Hepworth we have a young, yet very talented director who is not only certain of his own strengths, but also seems to know how to get the best out of his cast without falling either side of that fine line.

When you hear the audience discussing their own mental health with strangers during the interval, you know that the work you are watching has found its mark and is doing what its authors intended, helping end the stigma around an illness that was for many years, hidden away and, if not ignored, then certainly not readily discussed openly.

This show deserves to be seen by as many people as possible, and when you leave a theatre in happy tears, you know that you have watched something truly special.

There has to be someone, somewhere, willing to take a punt on a fringe show and put it on the bigger stage. I for one would love to see this show given such a chance, be it in Manchester, London, or elsewhere.

This is not a show that will be for everyone, but its certainly a show that everyone should have the chance to see.

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