Fish Eyes by Anita Majumdar – Belfry Theatre SPARK Festival

I sit transfixed as Meena’s (Anita Majumdar) fast and furious footwork punctuates and underscores the dialogue of a phone call between her dance teacher Kalyani Aunty & India, in Majumdar’s coming-of-age- tale-with-a-difference Fish Eyes (currently part of the Belfry Theatre’s SPARK Festival).

Fish Eyes 1Image provided

Multi-layered and witty, it addresses teen-age angst with a unique cross-cultural perspective, examining parental and familial expectations with humour, sarcasm and empathy.

Meena is forced to endure hours of traditional dance lessons when she would rather be dreaming of Buddy, the cute boy from class, and fantasizing about being the next Aishwarya Rai. How can she avoid travelling to India for the Lord Ganesh Festival All India Dance Competition, and remain, instead, at home during the summer after graduation?

Raised in Maple Ridge, a graduate of UBC and the National Theatre School, Majumdar’s earlier work in CBC’s Murder Unveiled (based on the murder of Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu) earned a Best Female Actor Award in 2005 at the Asian Festival of First Films in Singapore.

In Fish Eyes, written in 2004, she uses her formal training in Kathak dance as an essential elemental. Feet stomp – rebelliously, and signal character changes.  Hand gestures mime inner states.

The beautiful and technically difficult choreography adds an additional element of complexity. Nothing is quite like it seems.  The apparent one-dimensional Kaliyani Aunty (played to the hilt complete with accent for comedic relief) reveals her own youthful disappointments in one particularly poignant scene.

Issues of racism (and reverse racism) are addressed with a light touch: Aunty’s response to trick-or-treaters at Hallowe’en or her outrage when “white people” show up at the Punjabi market, the popular (white) teenager’s wish for a Bollywood-themed graduation, all hint at possible clashes when cultures mix.

Fish Eye made me uncomfortable at times. As a baby boomer white woman, I laugh, and immediately check in with myself.  Is it appropriate? Am I reinforcing stereotypes to find humour in this situation?  Am I laughing with or at the protagonists?  I harken back to Niles Séguin’s Fear of A Brown Planet, and videos of Russell Peters comedy routines, and think, perhaps there are no clear answers.  As a society, we’re working it out.  Fish Eyes is a welcome addition to the creative conversation.

I can’t wait to have the second play in her trilogy, The Misfit, come to the Victoria stage.

Fish Eyes with Anita Majumdar

Belfry Theatre SPARK Festival

March 21-25th

Tickets: online or by phone 250 385 6815

Disclaimer:  I was offered complimentary tickets to attend Fish Eyes. I was not paid to write a review nor was I required to do so. As always, I retain editorial control over all the content published on this blog.

About @lacouvee

Community Builder. Catalyst. Speaker. Writer. Arts Advocate.

Passionate about bridging online and offline communities to effect positive change.

I truly believe that one person can make a difference and that we all have our own lives to live, creatively, while respecting the unique nature of others.


  1. Tim Gosley says

    thanks Janis … wish I could get to it. tim

    • @lacouvee says

      It was a fascinating show – particularly from the perspective of the work necessary to blend the dance with dialogue.


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