Family tensions. Image by White with Two Sugars

Sarah-Liisa Wilkinson’s claustrophobic new play, Little Fish, shortlisted for the Old Vic New Voices Award last year, depicts a dislocated young family trying to come to terms with their tragic family history.

Cici (Helen Clapp) and Jamie are twins who appear to live together in the family home in which their mother died some months before. They are joined one stormy night by older sister Claire (Lucy Laing) who they have not seen since she found fame and fortune after having had sex on a Big Brother-type television show.

Demonstrating all the usual traits of a celebrity gone bad, she is drunk and high and her presence disturbs the twins. Particularly as Claire refuses to talk to her sister about the feelings that are fizzing just beneath the surface — even though she has spilled all to various gossip magazines.

With the audience sitting in the round you feel drawn into the lives of the three siblings to an almost unbearable degree. The tension is so palpable that when Jamie (Damian Cooper) throws a fit of rage — throwing sheets of paper, or drawings around, it feels like the paranormal activity it’s meant to portray.

And just like the captivating and dark fairy tales Cici makes up, what is really going on in this many-layered plot is revealed gradually, but all elements of the story begin to piece together.

What you come to realise by the end of the play is that this is fundamentally a play about grief. Grief haunts the sisters, making one turn inwards on herself, finding refuge in her imagination and the family home. While the other turns to the outside world, finding comfort within the confines of an altogether different house.

Fantastic performances from the young cast and a story that captivates you from beginning to end, Little Fish is an intriguing play, simple on the surface but touching on big, thought provoking themes.

Little Fish is playing until March 13th 2010.

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