Home Theatre, Manchester; Tuesday 24th July, 2018
First published as a novel in 2015, Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma’s debut bestseller The Fishermen made it onto the final-six shortlist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. Three years on and it has now been adapted for the stage, making its world premiere at Manchester’s Home Theatre.
Set in a small Nigerian town, the story revolves around a family unit in which four sibling brothers are being pushed towards greatness by the lofty ambitions of their parents. Whilst Mother runs a small shop, Father is away from home working for the central Nigerian bank. All four boys have received the same, clear instructions: they will go to school; they will be educated; and they will eventually take up fine jobs as respectable members of society.
But boys will be boys. Rebelling against the explicit instructions of their parents, they regularly sneak off to go fishing in the nearby River Omi-Ala – a haunted place which they’ve been told to avoid at all times. Their secret fishing expeditions are soon exposed, and when they boys decide to indulge in a seemingly childish act of revenge they instead unleash a terrifying chain of events which result in suffering that they could never have imagined.
This stage adaptation of The Fishermen is a wonderfully dark and thrilling piece of theatre. There are moments of genuinely amusing comedy as the boys mimic and mock the adults who rule their lives; but there are also some stunningly good moments of tense, heart-stopping horror – aided and abetted by expertly choreographed lighting and sound effects.
The Fishermen is a bright and innovative experience in theatre world: it could be an episode of The X Files with its semi-supernatural visual and auditory conceptualism; but then it could also be a Crimewatch dramatisation as the scenes being depicted could quite feasibly be real world events.
And all of this is achieved with just two performing actors on stage, each delivering multiple roles in a plot that switches timeframe and location rapidly and regularly whilst still managing to unfold the storyline in a coherent and decipherable manner. The result is a thrilling hour of fast-paced and unrelenting action, fuelled by a wonderfully written story that keeps the audience guessing till the very end.
|Visual pleasure||An intriguing set comprised of nothing more than metal poles in the ground, yet they worked remarkably well as a wall, as reeds on a river bank, as a fence, etc. The lighting effects were stunning, brilliantly amplifying the horror scenes.||4|
|Auditory pleasure||Some excellent use of sinister background sound effects and music, but there simply wasn’t enough of it.||3|
|Architecture & Theme||The underlying story being told is excellent, and one which holds the attention of the audience till the very end. The use of two performers to deliver multiple roles faltered at certain points as the transitions weren’t obvious, but the pace of the plot meant that there was not time to ponder, the story just kept coming and it demanded immediate attention.||4|
|Artistic delivery||Outstanding performances from both actors, each giving their multiple characters / roles a set of distinctive and often amusing personalities.||5|
|Overall impact||An excellent example of an all-too-rare genre in theatre: a psychological thriller that shocks and terrifies yet one which thrills and enthralls in its macabre storytelling.||4|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|