So basically I booked to see Nice Fish because of Mark Rylance, and I had no idea what to expect. The play, co-written by Rylance and the poet Louis Jenkins, started life on Broadway, and then transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre, directed by Claire van Kampen.
It opens with a landscape of ice (Todd Rosenthal’s stunning design), on which a tiny puppet figure is fishing. A flicker of the lights and we see the figure close up: Erik (Jim Lichtscheidl), who is trying to catch fish on a frozen Minnesota lake while his friend Ron (Rylance) hangs around, messing with the equipment, dropping his phone into the icy water, and regaling his pal with bizarre anecdotes. Much of the early part of the play is taken up with this simple banter, and once I got into the rhythm of it, I began to enjoy myself.
Things get even stranger with the arrival of assorted other characters, leading to outdoor saunas, barbecues and a breaking of the fourth wall before our initial pair of pals face an unexpected crisis. The arrival of the other characters was where things got a little bit too strange for me; either that or I found their conversations much duller than the initial two. The ending was surreal and completely unexpected.
What does it all mean? Is it some kind of bizarre metaphor for the meaning of life? I have no idea, but I’m glad I saw the play if only for Rylance’s performance.