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Friday 9 December 2016

Nice Fish, Play by Louis Jenkins and Mark Rylance, Harold Pinter Theatre, London 7.5* out of 10

Mark Rylance gives another brilliant performance, this time in a lighter register. Louis Jenkins’ play is a series of vignettes with folksy, homespun philosophy from the frozen lakes of Minnesota.  

Have you ever wondered whether the Minnesota of TV-Series “Fargo” would make an entertaining setting for a film or a play free of violence?  You need wander no further than the Harold Pinter Theatre to find the answer – and it is affirmative.

In “Nice Fish” Ron (Mark Rylance) and Eric (Jim Lichtscheidl), two middle-aged men of hardy Scandinavian stock have put up their tents or huts on the ice of a frozen Minnesota lake waiting for the end of the long winter while enjoying the great outdoors. Ice fishing (whereby a whole is drilled through the thick layer of ice and the angling rod planted above it) seems more of a justification for friends engaging in deep philosophical exchanges disguised as banter and in banter disguised as deep philosophical exchanges. 

Clare van Kampen directs Louis Jenkins’ play which is really a series of vignettes from a holiday-on-ice. Together they provide 90 minutes of amusingly enjoyable comedy drama in an inventive set by Todd Rosenthal performed by a competent cast, led by the brilliant Mark Rylance (recently of Bridge of Spies, Big Friendly Giant and Wolf Hall and sometimes referred to as the greatest stage actor of his generation). 

Like the packed audience, I was in the mood for the melancholic, homespun, folksy wisdom. Those who came to see Mr Rylance in a register a bit lighter than usual will also not have been disappointed. Good, light fun for the thinking person.

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