Fishbowl. Photo by Fabienne RappeneauFishbowl. Photo by Fabienne Rappeneau
Fishbowl. Photo by Fabienne Rappeneau

Fishbowl at Theatre Royal Brighton

Fishbowl is a hilarious, goofy French silent comedy, and yet another reason to cherish Brighton Festival.

The event consistently offers original and audacious shows from all over the world and serves them up (for a good price) on a stage in BN1.It's unlikely that many people picked up their Brighton Festival 2024 brochure (or opened up the online version) thinking 'I hope there's a cracking French silent comedy on this year'.But Fishbowl was exactly what all Brighton Festival goers want - a quality, inventive performance (with genuine Lols aplenty), and the chance to take in something slightly out-of-ordinary.

That said, Le Fils du Grand Réseau (to give it it’s original title) wasn’t exactly a huge punt for the festival bookers, it’s been tickling audiences all over Europe for years and in 2017 was awarded the 2017 Molière (highest French theatre honour) for Best Comedy.

A fairly crowded Brighton Theatre Royal stage showed a cross-section of three Parisian attic apartments and the comings and goings of the three oddball residents.

They’re described as ‘a big man, a tall thin man and a curvaceous blonde’ and although barely a coherent word is uttered by the three actors in 80-odd minutes they do a wonderful job in bringing those characters to life with superb physical performances, uncluttered with dialogue but bursting with emotion.

Mundane everyday tasks are played out for laughs, sometimes subtle sometimes far from subtle, as off-the-wall relationships and friendships are made amid the comic chaos.

Fishbowl must be the noisiest silent comedy in the history of the stage, from start to finish there’s an ever-changing soundtrack of music, buzzing mosquitoes and loud bodily functions.

There is, as you’d imagine, plenty of slapstick. Marvellous physical comedy Hearty whacks on heads, comedy falls and some first-rate gurning.

But there’s a lot more besides, memorable scenes include a loud party full of silly choreographed dancing (albeit punctuated by even louder bowel movement sound effects), a blood-soaked vaccination, and an early unbeatable moment featuring a sink plunger and the inhabitant of the eponymous fishbowl...

Along the way there’s some Karaoke sung in Japanese (naturally), hip thrusting, snoring, and even a Maori Haka.

It borders on bawdy with a fair ‘splash’ of scatological fun, the ‘big man’ models a deeply unpleasant pair white underpants, and displays an even more unpleasant hairy male bottom fissure.

Seasons change on stage but the goofiness remains, and the laughs continue at a steady rate before an uproarious and ‘explosive’ denouement.

Fishbowl is a wonderful, invigorating piece of theatre and an utterly charming romp.