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Arts in Review

Theatre Review: UFV’s Girl in the Goldfish Bowl

For the first time in my life, I actually walked away with a glow from a UFV play – that’s right, I said “glow.” I can see why Canadian playwright Morris Panych won a Governor General’s Award for Girl in the Goldfish Bowl in 2004; the play, though set in a memory of 1962, is still very much designed to be meaningful to the twenty-first century audience. Girl in the Goldfish Bowl takes a humorous yet sad and touching look at the struggles of the post-modern family and, by extension, North American society. Without fear, the play tackles head on issues of sex, alcohol, drugs, gender, childhood, marriage, and religion, through the experiences of a little girl who believes that her goldfish has been reincarnated to save her family.

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by Jennifer Colbourne (Staff Writer) – Email

For the first time in my life, I actually walked away with a glow from a UFV play – that’s right, I said “glow.” I can see why Canadian playwright Morris Panych won a Governor General’s Award for Girl in the Goldfish Bowl in 2004; the play, though set in a memory of 1962, is still very much designed to be meaningful to the twenty-first century audience. Girl in the Goldfish Bowl takes a humorous yet sad and touching look at the struggles of the post-modern family and, by extension, North American society. Without fear, the play tackles head on issues of sex, alcohol, drugs, gender, childhood, marriage, and religion, through the experiences of a little girl who believes that her goldfish has been reincarnated to save her family.

UFV theatre did an excellent job in bringing such a great play to fruition. I have never in my life seen UFV students act so well, which is encouraging because to my knowledge the second play of the year (the “January” play) is typically reserved for first and second year students to cut their teeth on. If this is the case, UFV has an astounding group of student actors coming up. This is a breath of fresh air after the standard over-glorified high school actors we’re used to seeing.

The leading actor, Gabby Bohmer, superbly managed to make a truly convincing 10-year-old girl. That’s harder than it sounds, as most actors tend to over-act when portraying a child, usually becoming too ridiculous and childish (CF UFV’s production of Schoolhouse). Yet within a few minutes, 10 year old Iris seemed an actual living, breathing child, and not just Ms. Bohmer dressed as a schoolgirl.

The supporting actors did a very good job as well; Ms. Rose, played by Jalen Saip-Dyck, felt very much a product of the historical time, the type of character you love to hate with all of her nasty spitefulness, blatant promiscuity, and lush habits. The mother Sylvia, played by Rebekah Brisco, managed successfully to win both the audience’s sympathy and frustration, as she gradually revealed the complexity of her character’s identity through her marital struggles. As for the bath-robed stranger, Mr. Lawrence, played by Josh Wilson, the character was absolutely hilarious in all of his surreal quirkiness. Every time Mr. Lawrence appeared on the scene, laughter inevitably followed; his lines were all comedic winners, and Wilson definitely made the best of them.

I must, however, take a moment to acknowledge Ron Jackson, who played the father Owen. I vaguely recall seeing Jackson in some minor appearance in Schoolhouse, and word on the street is that he is a second year acting student. I cannot even tell you how blown away I was by Jackson’s acting. The character Owen could have easily been simplified into some overdramatic lovelorn husband, but Jackson took the character and made it his own, in a very Alan Tudyk reminiscent way. All of the actors were superb in this play, but Jackson brought an unprecedented level of professionalism to the UFV stage. If he continues on this path, and doesn’t let his talent get to his head, I could easily see Jackson becoming a successful film actor. I highly recommend he starts seeking an agent soon.

Lastly, I must acknowledge the efforts of the people working behind the scenes. Director Joanna Redfern gets serious kudos for selecting and perfecting such a talented cast, never mind bringing such a remarkable play to dramatic fulfilment. The set, designed by Evan Hutchinson, was one of the best I’ve ever seen; he really managed to capture a sense of memory and the style of the sixties. This was only complimented by the carefully, era-appropriately chosen music by Andrew Meadwell and the soft-to-surrealistic lighting of Madison McArthur and Ali Shewan. Finally, the costumes designed by Laura Auffray were just absolutely perfect, from Iris’ schoolgirl outfit to Ms. Rose’s various sexy, smart get-ups. Together with their director, these students brought the sixties to life again, but in the surreal context of memory. There is nothing to say but “wow!”

If you haven’t seen the play yet, I strongly urge you to go. This play exceeded the very highest of my expectations, and it is a more than worthy university play. It has a strong appeal to young adults, and I guarantee you will enjoy the experience. It will make you laugh, and it might make you cry – make sure you don’t miss UFV’s greatest play yet!

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. G Kirkley

    February 1, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    It’s always so wonderful to read Jennifer’s reviews that are so lacking in a knowledge of the history of the theatre department. Perhaps, try writing a review that doesn’t insult most of the department. This isn’t an editorial Jennifer. You’ll notice that professional reviewers don’t do that. That’s part of what makes them professional.

    Time to hire someone new to write theatre reviews. Clearly Jennifer has a bias that is degrading her journalistic integrity.

  2. Ted Walker

    February 2, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Jennifer, I really liked your review and not even having seen the presentation say to G Kirkley – go find yourself another sandbox to play in your bombastic comments are tiresome. As someone who has worked professional theatre at a very young age, positive comments are far more helpful and constructive than your diatribe, however short. Hang in there Jennifer… cousin …teD

  3. Eric Johnston

    February 3, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Great review. This writer clearly has an in-depth knowledge of the history of the theatre department and effectively uses it to position this current play in a way that common UFV students can contextualize.

    Above all, I found it to be professionally written, especially for a student newspaper, and more than fair. I appreciated the way she discussed so many aspects of the play, and most of all, she shared her opinion – the expectation of any review.

    I hope next time UFV puts on a production Jennifer will be there to cover it, I almost enjoy reading her reviews more than the plays themselves! Bravo Jennifer!

  4. Markus R

    February 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    An interesting review, certainly, but unfair to paint hundreds of past ufv theatre students as “over-glorified high school actors.” I’ve been to many fantastic, breathtaking, hilarious, and unique ufv (and ucfv) theatre performances. Some shine more than others, but I would be hesitant to classify any group of people in such a broad fashion. Let each stand on their own merit, and I think you’ll find that ufv has produced a handful of duds, but a landslide of truly talented and unique actors.

    I may not always know what to expect, but I’ve always been entertained by UFV’s theatre department. Kudos to those involved for earning such a sterling review, and I look forward to an amazing Directors’ Festival this summer.

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