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Fringe Review: Red Herring @ ZOO Playground


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Gardyloo Theatre’s ‘Red Herring’ had me grinning throughout – combining live music, physical theatre and innovative use of props and set, their Fringe show was undoubtedly storytelling at its finest.

Image courtesy of Gardyloo

The theatre company is made up of graduates of University of East Anglia and describes itself as an “emerging theatre company specialising in the silly & the surreal”. Their new Edinburgh Fringe show certainly fits this description. ‘Red Herring’, written, devised, and performed by duo Lewis Garvey and George Ronayne, is a series of interconnected shorts and:

The darkly comic tale of a village under siege by all manner of ocean spirits and sea monsters, taken from famous fables and local legends. A story of how the everyday survives in the face of the supernatural, and how communities stand stubbornly steadfast against waves of change.

The shorts take the form of various songs about characters and random occurrences in a small coastal village all triggered by two fishermen, Deddy and Winchem. These fishermen (Garvey and Ronayne respectively) are out fishing one day when at the top of their biggest ever haul of fish sits “the inside-out blood fish”, an ill omen. Legend has it that this fish will cast a curse if they don’t return it to the sea. And so the fishermen make a classic English compromise (which they announced loudly to the sea) and following this decision, all sorts of strange and supernatural events occur.

The energy and enthusiasm of the piece was apparent as soon as the lights dimmed. An intimate venue and audience made little difference as Garvey and Ronayne began to tell their tale. The first scene of the play saw the two holding a blue towel between them with a small toy ship in the middle, which they proceeded to bounce around the “sea”. Immediately this brought a smile to my face which never seemed to leave – such innovative and childlike use of props continued throughout the show, including fish made out of socks and googley eyes as well as a cat which was suspiciously jumper-shaped.

Audience participation was similarly apparent from the onset, ranging from audience members being asked to whistle and hiss to recreate the sounds of the sea to some being brought onstage, given a costume and becoming a character in the play itself. One can see how this show is child-friendly and whilst there were no children in the audience when I went, one can imagine their happiness at being asked to put on a fish sock-puppet and dance during the finale. This audience participation heightened the imagination of the piece and brought even more laughter.

Garvey and Ronayne must be commended not only for writing the piece but also for their performances. Their impressive multi-rolling helped create a myriad of hilarious characters, from Blind Clyde to some angler-fish in a deep sea diver’s suit. I personally enjoyed the quirky songs the most, often with Ronayne playing the always-onstage acoustic guitar and Garvey singing. The songs were imperative to the story-telling, introducing eccentric characters and their lives such as My Friend Neil, a local Sainsbury’s employee who fell in love with an elephant seal.

Overall the show was wonderfully entertaining and despite the small venue, the energy and enthusiasm was infectious and genuine. I have no doubt every audience member left with a smile on their face, not just from the badges handed out at the door, but from the sheer silliness of the show. My only regret is not seeing this show sooner as the company certainly deserved much wider recognition. I look forward to hearing about their next show!

Though the Fringe, and therefore this show, is now over you can find more information about Gardyloo on their website.

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