Musicals that pull on your heart-strings are not an easy find, but the Hayes production of Big Fish – a modified 12-chair version of the 2013 Broadway musical – proves that imaginative but humble stagings can ignite the magic of storytelling equally, if not better than the often rife efforts of a full-blown spectacle.
Based on 1988 novel by Daniel Wallace (also adapted on screen in Tim Burton’s 2003 film), Big Fish focuses on a father-son relationship on the verge of breakdown. On Edward Bloom’s deathbed (Phillip Lowe), his now-adult son Will Bloom (Adam Rennie) remembers talltales his father told him as a child, questioning Edward’s identity in a series of flashbacks that attempt to discover the real father he believes he never knew.
Flicking between present day and Edward’s storybook past, the musical roots itself in the real-world present, paralleling Edward’s tumour diagnosis (a foreboding death) against Will’s now-pregnant wife (the excitement of a new life). Both personalities of father and son could not be more different; Edward is an optimist, a believer in stories and Will, a realist, naturally dismissing these tales as implausible. The world of Edward’s dreams is the one John August’s book sides with most (he also wrote the screenplay for Burton’s film), and with playful yet charming numbers, like ‘The Witch’, director Tyran Parke’s spellbinding vision brings the audience into the action of Edward’s charismatic storytelling.