Icy Minnesota, two hapless fishermen, a series of slightly hallucinogenic brightly coloured distractions, a couple of kooky ice dwellers, and one “nice fish”. These are the essential elements of Mark Rylance’s new play, co-written with poet Louis Jenkins. It’s no accident that these characters find themselves on a shifting icy plain, a solid state for now but always moving, the conditions changing, the ice possibly melting, possibly sinking, possibly not even there at all. The two men are drilling holes in the ice to fish, but are they looking for something deeper? Erick, played with wryness and a creeping sense of existential dread by Jim Lichtscheidl, holds up a lurid yellow and red lure… ‘would you bite on it?’, he asks. “Like bright blonde hair and red lipstick… everyone knows it’s not real” but yet the fish are still lured by it, and so are the audience.
Writing for the Guardian, Alexis Soloski described Nice Fish as a “A folksy Waiting for Godot” and certainly it does grasp and grapple with trying to uncover what is not there (as well as tackling the more ‘solid’ state of an unruly tent), but with the fishermen’s shared memories of Minnesota a personable warmth comes through, that removes the chill of the icy landscape and gives a more solid, situational grounding to the meandering mindscape beyond.
Hint: Come dressed as a fisherman or his catch and not only will you get to see the show for free, I have a strong suspicion you will become part of a clever meta-theatrical trick… sadly there were no coy cod, blushing bass or fidgeting fisherman in the audience tonight.