Edinburgh Fringe 2018
A comedy with some laughs and a singing goldfish, winning performances from three lovely actors, but a script more like a gentle and modest TV situation comedy.
The good news about “When the Friendship has Sailed” is that it offers a winning trio of actors in Natalie Ann Jamieson as protagonist Carrie, the young woman who needs a friend, and in Elizabeth Edmonds, an accomplished stage veteran in multiple roles, shining especially as Christina, the singing Goldfish who is Carrie’s only real friend and confidant. The playwright, Jessica Palfrey, also plays multiple roles, and all three are quite good. Director Edwina Strobel has moved things along at a brisk pace.
The not so good news is that the script only gives these actors rare chances to shine. Most of the fun is in the singing goldfish part, and most of that seems to come from the actor herself, who is a hoot, rather than the script. She sings several songs that are themselves fairly forgettable, but she sings with such authority, all dressed up as a night club songstress in a glittery dress complete with microphone, that she wins the audience over. But these goldfish moments are all too rare.
The plot is situation comedy, a form better suited to television, where characters can grow on an audience over time, from week to week. In this play, the audience learns only a few things about young Carrie; she has just moved to London, her old friends are busy having babies or living online adventures without her. We learn she is a swimming instructor, but almost nothing else. Her mother is conveniently away traveling the world, she has nobody to put on her form for emergency contact. This alarms Carrie’s doctor, because Carrie seems to have a serious case of asthma, and a Voice On Tape between scenes informs the audience that Carrie needs to find a friend in the next 30 days, or she will die, probably because of an asthma attack in her apartment.
The press release promises a rich plot about loneliness, and the production is partially sponsored by a charity that targets senior citizens who need to find friendship in their golden years. But the first glimpse of this promised plot, where the young lonely single woman in London finds a friend in a senior, doesn’t occur until the very end of the play. It comes in a contrived ending, out of nowhere, not as a result of character development or actual discoveries by the protagonist Carrie. The lonely senior citizen doesn’t even appear to be all that lonely herself, as she socializes at Bingo and comes to Carrie’s side after being summoned from what seems like a pretty happy life in her senior community.
In short, it’s a very gentle comedy with one really fun device, the singing goldfish. But the laughs are modest, and the problems Carrie has seem all too easily and conveniently solved by chance in the end.