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The Catfish Conundrum

The Music Troupe

Saturday 9 August 20:05-20:35 and Sunday 10 August 16:05-16:35

Kings Place Hall Two
Music & Words: Edward Lambert

The Catfish sings voluptuously of her wonderful existence at the bottom of a river. Suddenly, Harrison catches her and transports her across the ocean to a tank in the gallery. Reading the paper, Goodman learns about the exhibition and rushes over to the gallery to find out what is going on. There he encounters Milligan, angry that catfish are to be electrocuted and devoured at a feast: “Is this humane?”. Harrison explains that art is defined by the artist and cannot understand why there should be any fuss. The Catfish sings a plaintive prayer – “Sanctus” – while the argument between the others grows more heated. Milligan mocks the death sentence – “Catfish on death row” – then launches into a brief aria about frying fish: “If the Arts Council fries fish tonight”. Taking no notice, Harrison prepares the death chamber and his filleting knives – “Moments when reality” – then sings of the importance of his work in a fugue which is mocked by the others: “My work begins”. The proceedings are halted while meetings are held; the feast is postponed. Goodman is less worried about animal rights than the degradation of art: “Are we doing the right thing?”. Finally, the feast is given the go–‐ahead, provided that the slaughter is not shown to the public. As she sings the Lord’s prayer, the Catfish is led to her execution and filleted. President Reagan, in so far as he is capable of coherent speech, declares 25 June 1987: National Catfish Day.

Director & Designer: David Edwards
Stage manager: Nelly Lambert
Producer: The Music Troupe

The Catfish: Donna Lennard
Lord Goodman: Mark Beesley
Spike Milligan: Christopher Diffey
Newton Harrison: Alistair Shelton-Smith
Ronald Reagan: Joanna Gamble
Violin: Eloisa-Fleur Thom
Cello: Max Ruisi
Repetiteur: Susan Holmes




Newton Harrison (b.1932) is a pioneer eco‐artist based in California who has turned art into a weapon for the environmental cause. He and Helen Mayer Harrison have created numerous exhibitions and large-scale installations across the world. Part of the 1971 exhibition at the Hayward entitled 11 Los Angeles Artists, Harrison loaned the Portable Fish Farm to demonstrate and celebrate a sustainable food source.

Lord Arnold Goodman (1915‐1995) – a lawyer with friends in high places – was Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain from 1965 to 1972 – a period which, thanks also to the support of Jennie Lee (Arts Minister), is widely regarded as the golden age. He was an advocate of wider access to the Arts, and was especially fond of opera. The Hayward Gallery opened in 1968 and was managed by the Arts Council.

Spike Milligan (1918-2002) was a celebrity, comedian, writer, actor and campaigner, best remembered for ground-breaking radio series, The Goon Show, which he wrote and starred in. His headstone bears the following inscription (in Irish): “I told you I was ill”.

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) was an actor and politician who rose to become 40th President of the US (1981-1989). His policies were closely aligned to those of his friend, Mrs Thatcher.

Catfish are widely caught and farmed – particularly nowadays in the southern US, where it is a popular food. In the UK, catfish are marketed under pseudonyms so as not to offend Britsh sensibilities. Rather than being able to sing, catfish are great percussionists.

Review: Planet Hugill

Review: Fringe Opera