The Fishermen @ Assembly George Square

This adaption by Gbolahan Obisesan is a powerful and gut-wrenching piece of theatre

Review by Aileas Pringle | 23 Aug 2019
  • The Fishermen @ Assembly George Square

The premise of The Fishermen is instantly intruiging: a man returns home after eight years to an uncertain welcome, his absence initially unexplained. His brother’s reception soon thaws, giving way to playful reminiscences of their childhood. 

There are moments of humour as well as fear in their vividly depicted recollections. They evoke a despairing mother, scolded sons, a strict, often violent father – and even a convulsing fish caught at the end of a rod. Among their shared memories, however, hints of the dark events that tore them apart begin to appear. 

The Fishermen – adapted from Chigozie Obioma’s eponymous 2015 novel and back for a second Fringe run – is told through two onstage characters, Ben and Obembe. It revolves around a fishing trip they took as children with their older brothers Boja and Ikenna in which they “became fishermen”: a reference to how their fates were sealed that day, irrespective of the paths that were set out for them, in an interplay of destiny and expectation.

In spite of the minimal cast, it is anything but stripped back. The energy of actors David Alade and Valentine Olukoga is equal to that of a far greater number. The characters they create fill the stage as they move effortlessly around a versatile set, and the physicality of their theatre is truly exhilarating. It is the chemistry between the two that propels us on this emotional journey, from the ominous tone set by their initial meeting, to the more intimate family moments, to the masculine fury that will eventually cause so much destruction. The Fishermen is gut-wrenching and captivating storytelling.

The Fishermen, Assembly George Square Studios (One), until 24 Aug, 12.15pm, £14