The stage is awash with coloured balls – the perfect props for performing sea lions, wittily-named Lucille and Cecilia, to impress the audience with their agility. Actors Susie Scott and Chloe Darke make their way onstage clad in slick fitted wetsuits, swimming caps and elaborate moustaches, and introduce their sea lion selves to the audience. They transform through mime, a good dose of audience interaction and some uncannily convincing noises, which gradually splutter into words at the prompt of a bucket of fish.
The actors’ ability to mimic sea lions is impressive and hilarious, resulting in snorts of laughter from the audience before much has even happened. As the show develops, this momentum doesn’t wane; the physical movements of the actors become more ingenious, while the script is knowing and just surreal enough. The sea lions have distinct personalities – Lucille full of frustration and bravado, consumed by thoughts of the outside world and escape, while the younger Cecilia is besotted with their trainer and relatively content to stay in the enclosure. Adding to this, their quick interplay is amusing, with Lucille’s irritation at Cecilia threatening to cause conflict between the two of them.
The trainer, unhealthily preoccupied with his animals, is the real divider though. While his attentions attract only disgust from Lucille, Cecilia’s preoccupation with him takes over the plot, leading the show towards farce as a romantic moment between the two brings disaster, and then potential. These moments are soundtracked perfectly, with mournful operatic music used to emphasise the intensity – and ridiculousness – of the scenes.
Although the performance touches on issues of animal captivity and enclosure, it stays firmly within the comedy realm. Their trainer, played by both actors and with a squashed cardboard mask for a face, appears an inherently funny figure, and a dramatic moment involving his body is made all the funnier by Scott temporarily dropping character.
The resolution draws noisy applause, with two people loitering afterwards to exclaim to the venue staff: “But they were just so good at being sea lions!”. The show’s synopsis may sound as if it’s trying hard to fit in with the weirdness of the Fringe, but Bang Average Theatre’s proclamation that they “play with the absurd in the natural but mostly make damn good theatre” is bang on. Lucille and Cecilia is a strong first Fringe show from the company.