Lost souls swimming in a fish bowl

Karla Hayward
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Young theatre troupe tackles dark comedy

Thinking that a man washed ashore is your beloved goldfish reincarnated could be construed as insanity. Or, it could just be the magic of precocious child's mind. One thing's for sure, it is the premise behind "Girl in the Goldfish Bowl," written by one of Canada's most acclaimed playwrights, Morris Panych.

"Girl" is a dark comedy. It's the story of Iris, the precocious 10-year-old growing up in a home chock-a-block with neurotic adults during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Former cast member Mike Lockman (left) is shown with the rest of the cast of Girl in the Goldfish Bowl (from left) Reg Hoskins, Kayla Hussey, Chris Fry and Charlotte Courage. Photo by Jacob Fergus/Special to The Telegram

Thinking that a man washed ashore is your beloved goldfish reincarnated could be construed as insanity. Or, it could just be the magic of precocious child's mind. One thing's for sure, it is the premise behind "Girl in the Goldfish Bowl," written by one of Canada's most acclaimed playwrights, Morris Panych.

"Girl" is a dark comedy. It's the story of Iris, the precocious 10-year-old growing up in a home chock-a-block with neurotic adults during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Her mother is planning to leave the family, and only stays for the duration of the play due to perfectly timed pratfall. The familial war is mirrored outside, where the world is bracing for atomic war. Iris firmly believes her tiny pet goldfish is the only thing holding it all together. Then, the fish dies and our nearly drowned man washes ashore.

Then ... it gets interesting.

Chris Fry, director of Janus Productions, discovered the work by accident.

"I kind of stumbled on it. I was at Chapters in downtown Ottawa - and of course they have a much larger plays and anthologies selection than we have here. So, I was browsing and came across this. Upon reading it, I fell in love. It's the perfect type of script for us, and fits our needs perfectly."

Janus Productions is a for-youth-by-youth theatre company that aims to produce professional quality productions with a twist: "Our mandate is the promotion of up-and-coming artists - only those between the ages of 13 to 25."

Youthful cast

"Girl" has a particularly young cast. Iris is played by Charlotte Courage, the eldest at 21, and the youngest actor is just 17.

And at 19, even Fry himself is very young, especially for a director.

His company is now a year old and running it has taught him much.

"What a difference a year makes! I have learned a tremendous amount about the industry. Personally, I'm a lot more calm. I don't stress out or panic as easily," he said.

"But I've learned that, as a young director, there are times when people won't take you seriously. And, as I'm at the same age as the actors, the line can blur sometimes between the friend and the professional side of things.

"It can be difficult to keep things separate, but it's very important to do so."

As fate would have it, Fry met "Girl" playwright Morris Panych at the Magnetic North Festival last summer, although he didn't reveal his intention for the play.

"To meet the author of any work is interesting, particularly of something you really enjoy. But, I kept my fan status to myself."

"Girl in the Goldfish Bowl" can be taken lightly as a witty series of one-liners guaranteed to make you laugh.

Or, you can dig a little deeper; analyse the sub-text; look for the not-so-hidden themes of depression, anxiety, and the powerless feeling of a child.

"It's certainly a different take for us, it's a challenging piece for the actors, but yet it's a humorous and entertaining piece for the audience," says Fry.

To those thinking of attending, Fry says this: "It'll be an enjoyable evening. It's a very memorable show. Some people see a lot of theatre, but there are only a handful of plays that stick out in their memory.

"This particular show - how solid the script is, combined with our cast and what we've done with it - will be a memorable one for anyone who sees it."

Find out more at www.janusproductions.com. "Girl in the Goldfish Bowl" runs Wednesday to Sunday at the LSPU Hall.

Tickets are $15 general, or $13 students and seniors, call 753.4531. Show times are 8 p.m. nightly, with an additional 2 p.m. matinee Sunday.

telyarts@yahoo.com

Organizations: Janus Productions, Chapters

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa

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