Trafalgar Studios 2 (venue)
04 September 2019 (released)
09 September 2019
Based on the 2015 Man Booker prize-nominated novel by Chigozie Obioma, ‘The Fisherman’ is an epic family saga set in Southern Nigeria in the mid-90’s. Gbolahan Obisesan’s adaptation for the stage starts at the end of the novel and transforms it into a two-hander, with the story unfolding through the re-union of the two youngest brothers whose lives have been torn apart by tragedy. Doing justice to the original material, it was the extraordinary intensity of performances from actors, David Alade and Valentine Olukoga that brought the audience to their feet on press night.
When still only children, brothers, Ben (Alade) and Obembe’s (Olukoga) commit a terrible crime to revenge the death of their two older brothers. While Ben stays to face his prison sentence, Obembe runs away, only finally visiting his brother for the first time, eight years later. Slowly they begin to reminisce, first playing their mother and father, before bringing to life each of the characters from their lives and the sometimes hilarious, often frightening and ultimately tragic events that shaped them. It’s a psychologically convincing exploration of the magical thinking and complicating factors that might drive children to commit a horrific crime.
Running at an hour and a half straight through, the energy of the actors and the precision of the direction is impressive. No part is too small for serious attention, (look out for the thrashing fish on a hook) and the high-energy roles are balanced by those with quiet sensitivity. Alade’s portrayal of the mother, first ebullient and powerful, then broken by grief is particularly moving. There may be some moments when the sheer ambition of turning a huge cast of characters into a two hander proves a little confusing, but the over-riding theatrical experience in this small space is explosive.