Tim Blissett, Janna Fox, Matthew Houghton
Not much happens in Matt Wilkinson’s new play Red Sea Fish, which opens this year’s Brits Off Broadway Festival with a meager yelp rather than a bang. Focusing on the maddeningly dependent relationship of a retired thief, Ray, for his son Terry, who’s not quite all there, the play is a character study more so than a fully-formed play.
When Terry, a shy dolt of a man, brings a runaway named Karen home to meet his father, an emotionally catastrophic series of events unravel as both men compete for her attention within the confines of their tiny flat, set upon a hill by the south coast of England.
Currently playing in Theater C at 59E59, the audience takes up a mere four rows, leaving theatergoers a rather stifled by what is an intense play with which to be trapped in a black box for two hours. If one can shake off the claustrophobic feeling of the piece as a whole, there’s some marvelous descriptive writing on display here.
Still, despite a fine performance from Janna Fox as lanky Northerner Karen and adequate (if somewhat overwrought) turns from Tim Bissett and Matthew Houghton, who extend their reaches as actors somewhat beyond the limits of the play’s tiny playing space, there’s an essential lack of dramatic push that keeps Red Sea Fish from ever quite reaching its stride.
Simple mod designs by Jess Wiesner and sharp, focused lighting by Jack Knowles add a level of theatricality to the proceedings that occasionally seems lacking in the writing. Co-directed by Franklyn McCabe and Matt Wilkinson, the piece sags in plays but retains a level of emotional integrity that should keep an audience engaged at least in the characters’ thoughts and feelings – if not particularly in what’s actually happening up on-stage.