by Diana Miranda
“This gig gets weird”, announces Bradán Theatre in their publicity blurb. And weird it gets as it tackles the climate crisis through an absurdist script infused with Irish mythology and folk music, presenting a majestic salmon as an icon of environmental awareness, and veering from metaphors to literal meaning in quite a jarring spin.
While audiences find their seats, the Bradán band jams playfully and sets the tone of a live gig’s chill atmosphere. They introduce themselves as first-timers onstage. Fiona and Fin (Elinor Peregrin and Rory Gradon) are a couple, and Sam (Elisabeth Flett) is a master-fiddler sidekick who, much to her regret, is a third wheel when Fin and Fiona engage in awkward, lovey-dovey embraces.
With music at its core, Bradán works environmentalism into the show through Irish folk stories. The performances bounce from songs about a mythic salmon symbolising millenary knowledge and interconnection among all living beings, to atmospheric string loops that evoke the ghastly reality of salmon farms. Darkly funny, James Ireland’s script holds large corporations responsible for the current crisis, ultimately leaving individuals with limited options to take action.
The show then spirals from realism to surrealism. Overwhelmed by helplessness and anxiety, Fin internalises the intricacy of all things to such a degree that he concludes he’s a salmon that ended up in a human form as some sort of metaphysical mistake. It’s a play that demands the sheer suspension of disbelief to plunge into metaphors in the most literal way, but once audiences grasp the gist, it’s packed with insightful writing that gets to the heart. It’s enhanced by music both uplifting and devastating.
While undoubtedly talented musicians, it takes the cast a while to warm up, and the boundaries of the meta-world are neither here nor there during the show’s onset. The characters feel lightly sketched, and there’s not enough time to build Fin and Fiona’s romance. However, the actors infuse characters with warmth and charisma. Flett finds a better fit as she blends into the background once the couple immerses into Fin’s chimaera, chiming in to create spellbinding soundscapes.
Kate Bauer’s direction imbues life in the script through enhanced physicality. This helps convey the impulses behind the otherwise thinly drawn characters. Fin’s dancing, highlighted by Gradon’s knack for goofy comedy, foreshadows his intense obsession, and his silence while turning his back to the audience prepares us for his identity crisis. On the other hand, Fiona’s enlarged movements pierce the stage as bodily poetry during a captivating monologue that interweaves spoken word with Irish mythology to paint a holistic environment beyond the boundaries of time.
In a political environment in which climate action groups are demanding attention, Bradán has a unique voice. While the text is yet to become the best version of itself, this gig theatre eco-show succeeds in drawing from Irish folk stories and music to give an intimate voice to a global issue.
My Lover Was a Salmon in the Climate Apocalypse ran through 11 November.
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