Sunny and Boo are the pet fish of Gemma and Josie. “Our show’s about our fish,” they tell us. But, of course, it isn’t really; the fish are merely an undisguised and often wonderful analogy for the two of them. Their show is about their friendship – sometimes good, sometimes bad. Sometimes golden, sometimes floundering a bit.
ThisEgg’s show takes a gentle, dreamlike pace as the two performers, Gemma Barnett and Josie Dale-Jones, present this heightened, clown-like portrayal of themselves. They draw the audience in to their fish bowl with a self-awareness and simplicity that puts you at ease. But as the play progresses, Gemma and Josie’s friendship is put to the test. There’s this uncertainty that begins to slowly creep in: will they both love each other for ever? Or is their relationship’s life expectancy about the same as the fish?
What begins as a fairly charming, straightforward piece unravels into a frank and complex exploration of friendship. I honestly didn’t believe that a play about two young women, their friendship and their fish would move me all that much – but it did. Even a curmudgeonly cynic like me can appreciate that friendship is actually an important subject; one we don’t talk about nearly as much as romantic or sexual relationships. But in Goggles, friendship is placed at the forefront, and explored with real humour and honesty.
The pair flip between playing themselves and their fish (we’re pre-warned that this will happen at the beginning of the show.) When they become Sunny and Boo they sit inside the fish bowl and conduct a strange, broken Beckett-like dialogue to each other. These sections are a funny and surreal break from the dramatic action of the play, particularly the performers’ interpretation of fish conversation which is great. But at the same time these cutaways have a potential for exploring things which aren’t otherwise discussed. At one point Sunny and Boo kiss, but decide that they don’t like it, and you almost get the impression that this references an unspoken element in Josie and Gemma’s relationship – though it might be purely innocent. I think the purpose of these fish tank scenes could be further explored, and in much more depth (pun completely intended).
The performances are excellent; both women have enviable control, comedic timing and a real connection onstage. Josie’s character is a kind of docile happy-go-lucky fool, whereas Gemma’s more of a contemplative and melancholic soul – the two personalities are complex and contrasting, situated somewhere between grating on each other and harmonising perfectly. Together, they depict a very warm and real portrait of a friendship.