A Kettle of Fish review – unnerving tale for an age of anxiety

The Yard, London
Brad Birch’s play has a protagonist sharing space with huge projected images in an exploration of information overload

After an upsetting conversation with her dad, data analyst Lisa Collins flies off on a crucial business trip. On board, she receives information that triggers life and work crises.

Such might be a simple plot precis of A Kettle of Fish. But dramatist Brad Birch is a recipient of the Harold Pinter Commission, and, as in that playwright’s work, there is doubt about whether those mentioned are actual or anecdotal, alive or dead. A fire on which the action turns may be reality, memory, or hallucination, and occurring on Earth or in the sky.

As the production is at the Yard, an enterprising east London venue seeking to develop theatre attractive to the Netflix and podcast generation, form further complicates content. Wendy Kweh delivers a monologue, while a third of the stage is filled with projected images (a magnified fly recurs) and theatregoers hear through headphones an unnerving soundscape (by Max Pappenheim) of street and aerial voices and buzz.

Birch’s work unusually combines experimental shape with journalistic observation, his earlier plays The Brink and Tremor showing the impact on love or work of economic and terrorist tensions. A Kettle of Fish feels like an exploration of the way in which we attempt to make sense of torrential public and private digital information, with the audience processing multiple parallel streams of audio and video data.

Sometimes, our confusion and bemusement feels the fault of the production rather than the culture. But, at its best, this is a verbally and visually unnerving picture of an age defined by anxiety.


Mark Lawson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Super Duper Close Up review – turning a lens on anxiety in the internet age
The latest from theatre company Made in China is an arresting monologue about an actor prone to panic attacks and phone addiction

Miriam Gillinson

19, Nov, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
A New and Better You review – internet celebrity skewered
An exercise-obsessed young woman sweats to become an online star in Joe Harbot’s anarchic play

Miriam Gillinson

03, Jul, 2018 @2:00 PM

Article image
Fel Anifail review – an unnerving world of shadows and secrets
A couple stranded in an unsettling rural landscape are haunted by the past in Meic Povey’s richly poetic drama

Gareth Llŷr Evans

15, Oct, 2018 @7:00 PM

Article image
Rooman review – kangaroo love in dreamlike oddball tale
Fleur Elise Noble’s fantasy show at the London international mime festival is highly original and unsettling

Lyndsey Winship

15, Jan, 2020 @11:01 AM

Article image
Spiderfly review – a tantalising tale of tangled relationships
Writer John Webber shows edgy promise with this story of a woman’s contrasting encounters with two men

Michael Billington

12, Nov, 2019 @11:30 AM

Article image
The Exorcism review – devilishly tricksy haunted-house tale
Shifting between eerie ghost story and broad comedy, Ross Sutherland’s intriguing solo show about demonic possession never quite makes its intentions clear

Brian Logan

05, Nov, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
Rapunzel review – tangled tale of a bad hair day
Some scenes sparkle in Annie Siddons’ version of the fairytale but this unruly show is as long and knotty as the heroine’s locks

Chris Wiegand

16, Dec, 2019 @4:02 PM

Article image
The String Quartet's Guide to Sex and Anxiety review – strange and beautiful
Calixto Bieito’s intense theatrical collage brings together four first-rate actors and the miraculous Heath Quartet

Michael Billington

16, May, 2018 @11:46 AM

Article image
Creditors review – Strindberg's scintillating tale of passion and possession
Stewart Laing directs August Strindberg’s drama about a man wheedling his way into his ex-wife’s marriage

Mark Fisher

02, May, 2018 @7:00 PM

Article image
Armadillo review – horribly captivating tale of guns and abduction
Michelle Fox is electric as a kidnapping survivor glued to the news in a twisted production with hints of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Miriam Gillinson

07, Jun, 2019 @7:00 PM