Big Fish makes a splash at the Harlow Playhouse

Entertainment / Thu 16th Jun 2022 pm30 12:33pm

HARLOW Amateur Theatre Society (HATS) started preparing their adaptation of the Oscar-winning Big Fish in early 2020.

Of course, we all know what happened next.

But on Wednesday June 15th, 2022, they showed that they were determined that this was not to be the one that got away.

Suitably, for a show based in the deep south of Alabama, they even brought the steamy humid weather to Theatre 2 of the Harlow Playhouse. You feel that anyone using their programme as a fan should have got an acting credit!

At Will Bloom’s wedding party in 2000, his father Edward recalls the day Will was born, claiming he caught an enormous catfish using his wedding ring as bait. Will, having heard these stories all his life, believes them to be lies and falls out with his father.

Three years later in 2003, Edward has cancer, so Will and his pregnant French wife Joséphine return to the town of Ashton, Alabama, to spend time with him.

The role of Edward Bloom (played by Kevin Smith) is a difficult one as to begin with he is quite an unsympathetic, self absorbed and self referential character.

However, Kevin Smith produced a wonderful tour-de-force. It would be easy to go all James Stewart/Forrest Gump in the role but instead, Kevin is very much the understated everyman, who we grow to understand, respect and love.

Yes, he was a big fish in a small pool. No, he never got the chance to be a big fish in a bigger pool but he did the right thing.

Kevin’s singing was also top notch. Holding the notes and holding the audience. Kevin’s Time Stops was truly a show stopper.

HATS was started with the intention of producing ensemble pieces that brought the best out of everybody.

It also has the ambition of producing west end shows to compact areas such as Theatre 2 of the Harlow Playhouse.

Much credit has to go to the creatives led by director Jody Randall.

A lot of the musical numbers had close to twenty people on a small stage. Many in circus scenes so each actor had a different performance. The timing was impeccable.

Speaking of Randalls. Sarah Randall was a quite perfect Sandra Bloom, who played the auburn southern belle beautifully. Her acting was complimented by her singing. In close proximity, you can see the subtlety of a performance such as Sarah’s. The same applies to Tasha Saxby, who played Josephine.

Another of the roles was Will Bloom played by Mitchell Walsh. Mitchell displayed all the conflicted emotions a son would have of a man who had not spoken to his father for three years but is now trying to reconcile with his father and the truth as the end nears. You really did feel for Will and that was down to Mitchell.

Again, a wonderful singer. His highlight was Strangers. “He tried to understand him but I wonder if I can”.

This was a warm and at times, very amusing production. The humour was brought by the fantasy scenes and they were brought to life by such vivid performances by the cast of characters.

Hat tips to Jack Downey as Red Fang, David Stone as Amos Calloway to name just a few.

The young actors were also excellent. Special mention to Joshua Smith as young Will, who produced a very mature performance.

Let us also praise a number of the female performances such as the two Jenny Hills (Abbie Martin and Leah Bartram). Leah, in particular, had a wonderful singing voice.

This show is on for four nights. You can go for own way tonight (Thursday) and see Fleetwood Mac tribute in Theatre 2 but on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, try to catch Big Fish. It is wonderful production and performance by a theatre group that can only grow and grow.


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