A crayfish and a blue cod ponder the meaning of life, and death, in the fish tank of a Chinese restaurant as they wait to be chosen... Physical, funny, absurd, existential, imagine Waiting for Godot with fish, Waiting for Glutton perhaps. I asked director Amanda Grace Leo what drew her to the project.
‘The people,’ she says without hesitation. ‘I have worked with them all in the past and they are wonderful.’
The team is good indeed; Renee Liang is well established as one of the best playwrights working in New Zealand at the moment; Benjamin Teh and Hweiling Ow are great physical actors, and engaging to watch; the costume design is in the hands of Sarah Burren, who has a CV that includes working on the Rugby World Cup; and Billy T Comedy Award Winner Hamish Parkinson has been mentoring the clowning. Amanda has also recently been working with Ira Seidenstein, who has coached clowns for Cirque du Soleil. I ask Amanda on how the clowning is going.
‘I am getting them to work hard in rehearsal, they call me the dictator, and tell them to allow themselves to fail, otherwise they will never find the really interesting stuff. My best moment has been when Ben has flipped onto his back, and Hweiling wanted to sit on him but held back. I am there shouting at her to go for it.’
‘Ben’s amazingly flexible. He can do the splits and used to do hip hop. Hweiling is a wonderful actress, and there is a great energy and chemistry when they work together.’
It isn’t always easy. ‘The most difficult part of the rehearsal process was probably finding our feet in the world of the play - or our fins, rather. Trying to work out how to move’, says Teh, who will have twelve appendages to manage on his costume, and his hands encased in foam claws, all while break dancing during his performance. “At least you have legs to work with,” retorts Ow. And are they excited to be playing seafood? “It's probably the pinnacle of my career to date”, says Ow.
‘The most magical moment of rehearsal,’ says Ben, ‘would probably have to be the unveiling of the costumes. It's been something kinda wonderful to have a costume designer make you a one-of-a-kind outfit that feels like magic. I could be a Victoria's secret model.’ His mother would be proud.
Catch it at Basement Theatre, 25-29 August, 7pm.