Chigozie Obioma’s disturbing allegory of brotherhood, vengeance and guilt is powerfully adapted for the stage by New Perspectives, producing an exceptionally striking piece that will stay with you long after the actors finish their haunting refrain. The decision to share the story’s multitude of characters between just two actors – the brilliant David Alade and Valentine Olukoga – gives The Fishermen a chaotic, oppressive energy that only serves to compounds the inevitability of the unnamed family’s destruction. Though a far cry from the titillating comedy that characterises the Fringe, the powerful story and the overwhelming talent of the cast mean that this is a production you do not want to miss.
Following the oral narrative tradition established by African authors such as Achebe and Ngugi, Obioma’s story takes the form of an allegory in which the prophecy of a madman tears apart four brothers. To effectively represent such oral tradition on the stage the story is told through the two younger brothers, Obembe (Olukoga) and Benjamin (Alade), who reminisce about their family history by taking on the roles of other characters themselves. This gives the play an added layer of hindsight that intensifies the horror of the story, as the brothers are at times hesitant to carry on theresistant to the retelling, and must be encouraged to continue by one another.
Both Alade and Olukoga give mesmerising performances with endless energy, showcasing their immense talent and emphasising the intensely physical storytelling of The Fishermen. Both actors must constantly change and swap characters, workingand so they work together as one singular unit to convey Obioma’s allegory with power and sensitivity. A particularly striking moment is Alade’s portrayal of Abulu, a mad man who delivers athe prophecy that unravels the brothers. Lying with his face pushed between two metal poles and lit only by eerie red light, Alade delivers the prophecy with disturbing triumph, rendering the audience transfixed yet deeply uncomfortable.
McNamara’s dynamic adaptation of Obioma’s disturbing tale hypnotises and unsettles in equal measure, creating a striking piece of theatre that will no doubt stay with you, most likely in your nightmares. The endless energy and intense commitment to character displayed by both Alade and Olukoga is a testament to their overwhelming talent, and ensures that Obioma’s original writing is done justice on the stage. This is not a play you want to miss, so long as you can stomach it.
The Fishermen is on at Assembly George Square Studios, Studio One
At 12:15 until 24th August
Book tickets here
Image: Robert Day