The Bush theatre is known for its often-fearless new writing, tackling political, humanitarian or just plain awkward truths of the world we live in. With Anthony Weigh’s latest offering, Like A Fishbone, the venue has pulled no punches as it takes on the religious and social consequences of a small town tragedy.
In the wake of a horrific crime in a Yorkshire village where a school of children were shot, an architect in a London office, miles away in location and attitude, plans the presentation of her memorial to the victims.
As she places the final touches to her model village, a blind woman, soaked by the rain, arrives in her office determined to have her say. This woman is the mother of one of the murdered children, and the architect is forced to listen to the cold reality of what happened. The architect’s idea of the truth and that of the victim’s mother sit at polar opposites.
Set in a cold, minimalist office, drenched in florescent strip lighting with rain-soaked windows, Weigh’s play is an hour-long dialogue between the two women. Both mothers and both passionate about their beliefs – or lack thereof – they embark on a discussion that begins about a simple building and ends as a religious debate.
Sarah Smart, as the heartbroken mother, is painfully vulnerable yet relentless. At first her disability is disguised as anxiety, her twitching, shaken body at odds with the clinical, calm surroundings. Dressed beyond her years, the architect makes the mistake of viewing her as a small town idiot, not realising that blind or not she is the only one who sees exactly what a monstrous thing the architect is proposing.
Dressed in neutral, elegant, artist chic, the deeply patronising and cold, bullying professional, played by a tight-lipped Deborah Findlay, is infuriating and further out of her depth than the supposed hick who appears in her office.
With the architect articulate and revered, however objectionable we might occasionally find her, and the mother understandably unhinged and confused, Weigh falls into dangerous clichés of intelligent and successful versus the religious and mad. Although no conclusions are made, the play becomes a question of finding meaning in a situation where nothing but horror can be seen; with such tragedy, is there still a place for religion and hope?
As two different versions of the truth collide, Weigh’s play is a hard-hitting and brave attempt to discover what it is to remember and how best we should do it; with hope and a sense of peace, or as a cold, stark warning which conveniently doubles up as a piece of modern art.