Review: The Fish Eyes Trilogy (Factory Theatre/Nightswimming)

Toronto’s Factory Theatre opens its season with Anita Majumdar’s play The Fish Eyes Trilogy

Anita Majumdar is a force to be reckoned with in The Fish Eyes Trilogy, the one-person show she’s written, choreographed, and is performing at Factory Theatre. You’d need an oil tanker, not a fishing boat, to hold the amount of ferocity she brings to playing three teen girls (and a host of other minor characters) living in Port Moody. Told almost as much through dance as through voice, The Fish Eyes Trilogy probes into the tender places where racism and misogyny burrow into adolescent sexuality, with complex psychological repercussions.

The show is a trilogy of short plays, each told from a different girl’s perspective, covering many of the same events in their final year of high school. In Boys With Cars, we meet Nazneen, who attracts the attention of the cool kids when she performs Indian classical dance at the Golden Spike Festival. One of them, Lucky, is a handsome British-Punjabi immigrant and the two start dating. The other cool kids are white, and also a couple: Candace and Buddy.

In the second short play, Let Me Borrow That Top Majumdar effectively and hilariously turns herself into a white girl as she performs a makeup tutorial as Candace for her vlog. As an audience member, I already had a negative opinion of Candace based on Boys With Cars, so I was primed to laugh at her narcissism, casual bigotry and general cluelessness. While that comedic relief was provided, ultimately Majumdar handles her with a certain empathy that further builds the feminist heart of the piece into a perspective both critical and compassionate

After an intermission we return to the final play, the Fish Eyes of the title. Here Majumdar portrays a serious Indian classical dancer, who has been training since she was 5 years old. Meena can barely move without being dance-like. Although I am not well-versed enough to recognize the meaning of all the poses used in the storytelling aspect of this dance tradition, Majumdar has such precise movement and expressive face that the narrative she was telling with her body was often apparent.

Meena is desperately, misguidedly, in love with Buddy, Candace’s boyfriend. He doesn’t even know she exists, but she refuses a trip to a dance competition in India so as not to miss a chance for him notice her. Her Auntie, who is her dance teacher and the one spearheading the trip, is not pleased. Auntie is the one character apart from the 3 girls who has real depth. She’s fatphobic and snide and controlling, and she’s wise and insightful, and she truly cares about Meena.

The show feels dated only in that the teens don’t use any technology (the playwright’s notes indicate that Fish Eyes was first performed 13 years ago.) Absolutely nothing about the show’s portrayal of sexual assault, bullying, slut-shaming, cultural appropriation, and racial harassment are irrelevant to the here and now. Majumdar, and director Brian Quirt, makes this unfortunate point clear as a bell with this excellent show.

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Photo of Anita Majumdar by Dahlia Katz

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