Although I must confess to a high degree of ignorance about many of the dramatists on the Fizzy Sherbet podcast series, I feel that’s largely OK because part of the point of the project is to introduce the audience to new writers/writing. The second series (although they refer to it as the first – the first being dubbed the pilot – keep up at the back there!) does start with a name which is familiar to me through both her onstage/online piece Scrounger and the mammoth pandemic undertaking which was Late Night Staring At High Res Pixels.
Athena Stevens’s Diagnosis is a departure from both of these in that a note of science fiction is introduced though it still investigates a topically based issue. One of the protagonists develops the ability to foresee the date and time when other people will have their mobility or intellectual capacity limited through a traumatic event or medical circumstance. Should she reveal this to them and if she does would they even listen to her Cassandra-like prognostications? This moral dilemma lies at the heart of a play which also follows the fortunes of someone observing the behaviour of foxes around Charing Cross station. If there seems to be somewhat of a disconnect between the two halves of this play then you would be right to think so. But connect they do in a way that is far from obvious and which gives the story a delightful sting in its tail. Performed by Lizzie Annis and Cara Ballingall it’s the sort of piece that would repay a second listen so that the connections can be more readily and fully appreciated.
The Dream Machine by Sonja Ferdinand also features a pair of voices, Laura Hanna and Josephine Starte who articulate both the narrative and the characters within it. It’s the tale of two young people on an aeroplane flight who have very different experiences, particularly the one who risks everything to gain freedom; that this ends tragically is fairly inevitable but no less affecting for that. This is a short but dense piece which, to my mind, isn’t a true piece of drama in the strictest sense. It’s more a piece of fiction (though clearly based on fact) which happens to be articulated by a pair of actors though it has been recorded in front of a live audience at the Danish National School of Performing Arts. This is not to diminish the powerful simplicity of the writing nor the heartfelt voice work, both of which leave a lasting impression. The subsequent post show discussion features interesting testimony from Jwan Osman who fled oppression in Syria as a fifteen year old and made a harrowing journey to his new home – a real life example of the fictionalised account at the heart of the play. Happily, in this instance, the outcome avoided tragedy.
The final piece in this this third tranche is Blue by Caridad Svich which would present real challenges for an onstage performance. The setting is the middle of the Channel and the protagonist a serial swimmer of that stretch of water. It’s a reflectively hypnotic short piece which covers a lot of ground (water?) as Irène Jacob’s central character considers her own position in the world but also universal themes such as immigration and climate change and how water both connects and disconnects us from others. Svich’s rhythmic vocabulary and sentence construction ensures that content and form are well aligned to present the listener with something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a highly immersive (sorry!) piece with excellent sound design by Julian Starr which challenges conceptually and through the power of language especially in its ambiguity (the swimmer wonders whether the medical condition of a mini-stroke is something to do with movement through water). There’s even another reference to jellyfish (please see reviews of the second tranche here), an ongoing trope which has pervaded several of the Fizzy Sherbet plays.
Just one more group to go now and I’ll have finally caught up with this rewarding podcast series which doesn’t shy away from challenging material.