A lovable kind of eccentricity has always been part of Mark Rylance's charm; so has his utter unpredictability. Both those qualities are on ample display in Nice Fish, a personal passion project of Rylance's for the prose poetry of the Minnesota based writer Louis Jenkins that he has stitched together, like a tapestry, from bits of his work.
Across 90 minutes and some 30 scenes, we observe two ice-fishermen friends passing the time as they wait for a fish to bite from the hole they've drilled into the ice.
Not a lot happens -- yet, as in Beckett, everything happens. Waiting for the big catch is a kind of metaphor for life; and while we wait (and wait), we are treated to observations like "Some days are so sad nothing will help". That's as perfect a summary of the desolation of depression as I've ever heard.
There are other detours and non-sequiturs, like a dissertation on somersault therapy for old people and speculations on what happens after death. The play is by turns funny, sad, weird and surprising. But don't expect anything by way of conventional narrative or plot progression. There isn't any.
Instead, you're in the presence of Rylance, a master storyteller and stage magician, for an hour and a half. Encased, for most of the show, in a bright orange jumpsuit that makes him look like Kenny from South Park, he finally sheds this for a simple negligee at the end in which he seems to change sex as well. Don't ask why. Just go with the flow and you may love it as much as I did.
What the Press Said...
"Rylance plays a goofball novice on an ice-fishing trip in a play that feels derivative and slides into absurdism."
Michael Billington for The Guardian
"A patience-baiting tragicomedy...Is it a tad pretentious? Borderline codswallop? Of course it is."
Dominic Cavendish for The Telegraph