by Evangeline Cullingworth
Yes, this is my first time in Dingle – no, I’ve not been out on the peninsula yet and yes, I’ll make sure to say hello to Fungie. The next thing I know we’re splitting a bag of Taytos with the row in front and cheering along to a traditional song that has risen up. And the play hasn’t even started yet.
Catch of the Day is a bit like finding yourself in the best pub ever, warmly welcomed and swept up in a story told by complete strangers who very quickly feel like family. Red Fox Theatre’s house style is imaginative and inclusive, where umbrella jellyfish swim next to bottle cap barnacles and dishcloths draped over heads transform the cast into giggling nuns.
They effortlessly leap from song to banter to story, as the chosen focus of a remarkable fishing find takes us to the heart of the community and their history. All three performers swap instruments and play several different characters, this is an ensemble who are sharp and responsive collaborators.
The rip-roaring jokes speak directly to a contemporary audience. But the most sensational moment comes when Anna McCormick, who also wrote all of the vocal arrangements, manages to still a giddy audience and captivate us with a biting history of English colonialism in Ireland to the tune of “American Pie”. Yes, really. And it gives me goosebumps.
Catch of the Day is smart and radical documentary theatre. The company’s respect and care for the personal stories that have been shared with them is clear in how much joy they take in sharing them with their audience. The tone of the piece is skilfully measured by director and collaborative playwright Megan Jenkins, who curates the production alongside the ensemble. The masterful way this English and Irish ensemble portray these real memories as heightened skits is perfectly matched with the poignancy of the history they touch on. I could come back to this pub and discover more stories with Red Fox Theatre every night.
Catch of the Day runs through 31 January.
The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.