The Fishermen (4 stars)

This article is from 2018

The Fishermen

Dense and powerful tragedy filtered through two brothers' family history

Gbolahan Obisesan's adaptation of Chigozie Obioma's novel is a gruelling journey through family conflict that begins with the reunion of two brothers (Michael Ajao and Valentine Olukoga). While their exchanges seem innocent enough, the scenography suggests a prison and the consequences of a prophecy have left one brother free and the other imprisoned. Gradually, they reveal the terrible events that broke them apart, and the legacy of death and destruction that tore through their family.

The idea of a prophecy driving the protagonist to defeat is familiar from Oedipus, and the fatalism is made more explicit since the brothers are retelling the tale. Impersonating other brothers, mother and father, and other local characters, Ajao and Olukoga offer remarkable performances, filled with intensity and fire, leaping from playful to violent, hurling themselves across the stage and at each other, and describing a dense sequence of horrors that never resolve but open only into further death.

If the story evokes classical mythology, the traces of the novel appear in the dynastic preoccupations of the parents, concerned with their children's success, and the subtle interplay of those within and without the family unit, including a preacher and an outcast, lens the production an expansive vision that suggests that the brothers are expressing a deeper social set of tensions.

If Obisesan's script is at times hard to follow because of the amount of narrative and action, Ajao and Olukoga make sense of the multiple personalities and the nuance of the family conflict, never allowing the intensity to slip as they re-enact their past and unfold how they came to be on opposite sides of the bars that divide the stage.

Assembly George Square, until 27 Aug, 1.20pm, £12.50 (£11.50)

The Fishermen

  • 4 stars

Based on Chigozie Obioma's award-winning novel. Brothers Ben and Obembe secretly fish at a forbidden river near their small Nigerian town, until one day the prophecy of a madman shakes their family to the core.