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!