“If you forever judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its life thinking that it’s stupid”- Albert Einstein.
This quotation is the foundation on which the Student Workshop’s recent production, Three Fish in a Tree, is based. I’m not normally one to endorse the use of Instagram-bio pseudo-philosophical quotes, however I would argue that in the context of this production the quotation is actually quite profound. Three Fish in a Tree is a celebration of originality: following the story of three characters whose lives have been affected by Dyslexia, Autism and ADD. The charming nuisances were at first completely lost upon an uncultured swine such as myself, as the abstract script is ambiguous towards the concept of time and space, which was somewhat confusing. However, once I accepted that it wasn’t a formulaic, linear story, it metamorphized from a seemingly random sequence of events to a structured narrative consisting of characters whose fates were intertwined.
It is not a chiselled production, nor is it glamorous. It’s a gritty, naturalistic insight into how the characters’ conditions influence lives. This realism comes from the true stories on which the play is based – which is reflected in the authenticity of the characters’ writing. However, there is a tasteful subtlety to the performance: although these conditions are indeed at the vanguard of the narrative, their presence is forthright, but in no way obtrusive. Even more impressive is that the production was made completely from Scratch… Productions (a pun as old as time). The entire project was created by Holloway drama students – my one criticism of the production would be that it seems to be also made only for drama students. Its eclecticism may very likely be lost on the untrained eye.
However, my list of criticisms is a short one indeed – as one must appreciate that this production has to handle delicate themes with dignity. It proved a challenge to accurately and conscientiously represent characters with neurobiological conditions. However, the cast have a top-notch crack at it – it’s undeniable all three cast members give exceptionally convincing performances.
Don’t go into this production expecting Shakespeare. Three Fish in a Tree doesn’t present a multi-stranded narrative of dramatic twists and intrigue. But that is precisely why it is so interesting: its innovation comes from its inherent subtlety. Congratulations to everyone involved for another imaginative and rather endearing little production.