Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Henry and Alice have been trapped in a boring marriage for years. Henry thinks Alice is boring. Alice thinks Henry is boring. But unbeknownst to the other, each inhabits a parallel world of action, glamour, sex and celebrity.
For Henry Smith, actor, comedian, raconteur, sporting hero, leading socialite, business tycoon, secret agent and acting President of the United States, life is rarely dull. For Alice Smith, housewife, life is rarely anything else – until the entry of Michel, a tall, dark and available French waiter. As to what happened next, no-one’s really sure, except that it seemed to involve a rotting melon, a folding deckchair and a tube of deep heat.
Henry is a full-time fantasist and Alice a full-on housewife for whom everything, including Henry, has to be in its rightful place. Forever tidying up after her indolent husband, she’s also forever dragging him back into reality. The idea of her slipping into a fantasy world seems anathema.
But as the plot unfolds Alice reveals something of a proclivity for steamy scenarios, leaving Henry to concentrate on his macho delusions. Yet their real life rants and fantasies are played out to no-one apart from Orca, their goldfish, who swims round and round in his/her glass bowl set downstage right in solitary splendour.
David Tristram’s The Extraordinary Life of Orca the Goldfish suggests that it might have been written for a long-time married couple in their late forties but Upstage Theatre Company have gone for a rather younger pairing in Matt Martin (Henry) and Kate Shlugman (Alice), neither of whom look to have breached thirty.
This two hander gives the actors the chance to display a broad range of characters and characterisations which Matt Martin does with particular dexterity. Each of his fantasy figures has been carefully thought out and is clearly differentiated through accent, use of the body and vocal expression. And Kate Shlugman’s alter-egos were also nicely formed, even if the boundaries between some of them were inclined to blur. The confines of theSpace at the Radisson called for some pretty creative lighting to convey the transition between fantasy and reality and an illusion of different locations – beach, office, consulting room and the great outdoors all essentially depended on lighting to generate the right ambience.
Tristram’s tight script is entertaining, funny, at times absurd but observational enough to be totally plausible – we all fantasise to one degree or another and it can provide a degree of comfort in a failing relationship, as Henry and Alice’s obviously is. As time goes on so their dreams weave in and out of reality and it becomes amusingly difficult to separate one from another. And the surprising denouement caps an entertaining forty minutes of nicely acted and produced theatre.