Theatre: Urban myth

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The Independent Culture
THE FISHER KING (premiered in Taunton) is the stage presentation of the film in which Robin Williams played a schizophrenic with ants in his pants, in a story that had more than a touch of Frank Capra mawkishness. The plot is laid out in the prologue and, if I had not seen the film, I would have been bemused throughout the first act. A Radio Talk Back host has an unguarded moment when he advises an unstable caller to assert himself over human hypocrisy, which results in the caller killing seven people, and himself, in a bar. Wandering among the homeless of New York, the radio host meets up with a crazy man who is the husband of one of the victims. The crazy man is pursued by demons that can be exorcised only if he finds the Holy Grail.

The Arthurian mythology makes it easy to transport the plot from New York to Bristol, to substitute Clifton Downs for Central Park, although the theme song ("How About You? I Love New York in June") remains. The second-half romance between two painfully shy individuals, the awkward dinner party and the declaration of mutual attraction is an acting high point. Most of the dialogue (by Richard LaGravenese) is lifted from the film and has the wry charm of an urban folk legend.

This is an ambitious project and it is good to see a small company stretching its resources to the limit. The Innerroom Theatre Company hails from Bath and has some connections with The Natural Theatre Company of that city which has been entertaining West Country audiences with wacky theatre stunts for a couple of decades. Steven McMurray plays the laconic broadcaster and Mark Bishop leaps about as the man on the edge of sanity. Dawn Corfield plays the long-suffering girlfriend and Ashley Christmas plays the dream girl.

It is a mystery why the film company and LaGravenese allowed a stage adaptation of a purely filmic story, but director Andy Burden has done his best to bring it to life. Worth seeing, but get the video first.

At Taunton (01823 283244) until 25 Sept then a national tour to 4 Dec