Girl in the Goldfish Bowl – Bakehouse Theatre til 4th May – 3.5K

Romina Verdiglione as Sylvia, Scott Perry as Mr.Lawrence, Miranda Pike as Iris, Patrick Clements (background) asOwen

Romina Verdiglione as Sylvia, Scott Perry as Mr.Lawrence, Miranda Pike as Iris, Patrick Clements (background) asOwen

By Peter Maddern

A ten year old girl, Iris, (Miranda Pike) has had her gold fish washed away by parents struggling with the bills and their marriage. When a strange man, Mr Lawrence (Scott Perry) arrives to become another boarder in the home, Iris increasingly sees him as a saviour; her new goldfish and a solution to the problems getting worse domestically.

Set in the shadow of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, under Peter Green’s experienced and submersing direction Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, takes us most successfully back to another era. While the set is a tribute to detail and the music nicely chosen from the period (it is not often one hears Herb Alpert nowadays), it all goes to show that so-called simpler times had the same dramas we all often live with today.

The play opens with Iris positing on the aphorism that one’s childhood ends when unhappiness first sets in. From there, Canadian playwright Morris Panych has his audience hoping that the joys of her child hood can indeed be sustained, that a happy ending for these sometimes sad individuals can be found. Depressingly, at times, however it seems she is only one of the characters who cares about that.

No review of Goldfish would be complete without featuring Pike’s superb display as Iris. While she opens with the head start of being rather closer to Iris’s age than most of her audience, maintaining a credible physical front as a girl has to be balanced with delivering the wit, naivety and yet wisdom of a mind dealing often mulling on adult issues. Hers is a wonderful performance.  

New to the stage but delivering with assurance is Scott Perry. The awkwardness of his Mr Lawrence character is confidently delivered and sustained, helped somewhat by his imposing physique and the Forest Gump like clobber. Patrick Clements as Owen, Iris’ forlorn father, is also excellent in conveying the pent up terror of a middle-aged man who has no career, dreams that can’t be fulfilled and what he does has is on the edge of deserting him when his wife, Sylvia (Romina Verdiglione), unsuccessfully attempts to leave the family home.

While all that may sound somewhat sombre fare, the truth is that there is great humour amongst Goldfish’s poignancy and the evolved yearnings to see a hitherto happy childhood extended keeps us with the program.

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