OLD JOE’S FISH ‘N’ CHILL – a piece of new writing by Be.Wilder theatre company

Location: The Cat’s Back pub

6th May 2017

Be.Wilder are a theatre company made up of graduates and international artists from RADA’s acting programme MA TheatreLab. This production is their debut and they were performing it as part of Fragility Takeover during the Wandsworth Arts Fringe.

Running at just over an hour long, the play tells the story of Old Joe’s Cafe, previously a flourishing fish and chip shop and night club set in an abandoned train station on the border of several unspecified countries. It is now a decrepit skeleton of its previous vibrant self, however it is still haunted by both old and new visitors and acts as a refuge point for immigrants wishing to travel to a new destination.

This story intertwines the stories of several of these characters, including Petra, a French drag queen, Naomi, a Scandinavian writer, a German gangster and an English border control man, all looking to meet the mysterious ‘Joe’ and hoping to find either a physical person or some form of emotional closure.

All of these characters had the potential to be fascinating but unfortunately their stories were unable to be fully explored in such a short production. The strong ensemble of actors were able to maintain my interest, but I definitely left feeling unfulfilled and with a desire to know more about them. It potentially might have been more effective to focus in more detail or one or two of the characters; however this is something that can be easily resolved should the company decide to develop into a full scale production.

Unfortunately I did not have a cast list, but a stand out performance for me was the actor who played Petra (the drag queen), who had several moments of excellent comic timing. There was also a nice sentimental moment created when two of the characters stood back to back reading out sections of some stolen love letters; the simplicity of this scene and the emotion delivered by the actors created a lovely moment.

At times I found myself very confused as some of the scenes did not have clear endings or beginnings so it was hard to stay on track with the different aspects of the story, but on the whole I found it an enjoyable production with some strong performances and definite potential for further development.

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