Review: Fishbowl, at the Pleasance Courtyard – The Grand

Jacques Tati meets The Sims, in one of the sights to be seen at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.  


Pierre Gullois’ Fishbowl tells the story of three friends, who each live in their own small apartment, on the top floor of an apartment building. One is a sensitive-souled hoarder, one a tech-worshipping karaoke fan, the last a soul in search of a vocation. The audience plays fly-on-the-wall witness as they love, play, survive and try to thrive, in a world increasingly beset by the most outrageous of traps. 

I doubt there is any better physical comedy to be found in Edinburgh this month, nor indeed, this year. Fishbowl is a masterclass in how to tell a story, and a very, very funny one at that, without saying a single word. This is slapstick comedy delivered with both surgical precision, and playful nuance. 

It’s not all pratfalls and ‘Three Stooges’-esque clowning, however. The action wanders through moments tender, domestic and inspirational, and three complete lives are successfully created. 

Fishbowl images courtesy of Fabienne Rappeneau and Pascal Perennec

Whilst episodic, there is also a clear overarching narrative to the piece, one which extols friendship, and the solidarity of others, as an antidote to the sufferings natural to every life.

 There are hints of deeper subtexts and storylines, and, perhaps as in life, not all find a resolution. Given how easy it is to become invested in the friends’ lives and fates, I might have wished consequences for the one whose actions stray into toxic territory. 

This is a minor quibble, and not one that would give me any hesitation in recommending this play in the least.

There’s a fourth performer on stage (a fifth and sixth too, if you count the fabulous behind the scenes folk), and that’s the set. It’s really rather splendid, a marvel in many respects. I salute the creative minds behind both design and manufacture. The opportunities provided for a startling range of tableaux is simply staggering. 

The soundtrack is also charming, and lighting and other effects are used to great effect throughout. There’s humour running through every aspect of the production, from the wind, to the choice of karaoke tracks. 

There’s nothing else remotely like ‘Fishbowl’ on offer amongst this year’s monstrously diverse show lists. The message and story are truly universal, and the whole production is a joy to behold.

You can catch Fishbowl at the Pleasance Courtyard – The Grand from 9th – 13th and 15th – 26th August, at 13:00. Tickets and more information can be found here.

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