Kyra Ho has an entertaining night at The Fringe, reviewing Forbidden Fruit, a Mermaids-sponsored production by TBD Theatre.
Forbidden Fruit’s humour and enjoyability largely came down to the cast’s impressive execution and interpretation of a frankly unremarkable script.
The premise of TBD’s production is a rotating, audience-assigned cast; each actor must be able to play any of the five parts. The plot, centred loosely on a countess’ boredom, aversion to marriage and subsequent attraction to a lothario Rosario, is not what makes the show the immense crowd-pleaser it is. Credit for that must be given to the undeniable chemistry between the actors and their clear joy in performing.
The show begins with an explanation of the production and an introduction to the actors, which gives a sense of individuality to each performance, as the audience is able to recognise flashes of actors’ personalities in their interpretations. This made the production seem more versatile, suggesting that characters would be played differently according to the actor, rather than having fully pre-defined roles, giving it a genuineness that audience-interactive plays sometimes lack, and revealing the immense comic talent of every actor. Special mention must be made of Louis Wilson, whose spirit was such that his bumbling notary character was almost unrecognisable from the actor that introduced the play.
Marketed as an attempt to defy genre and convention, the play mostly achieves this in its demonstration of the irrelevance of sex when playing a traditionally gendered role. Specifically, Lydia Milne demonstrated a real understanding of farce and traditional male characters, playing the womaniser archetype with a professionalism that made us attentive to her lines without straying into pantomime territory. Webb-Jenkins’ generous eye-contact with the audience, however, was unmistakably pantomime - but this was excused by her charm and ease on stage, which the audience lapped up.
Director Amy Addinall should be commended for her attention to detail in this well-rehearsed and thoughtfully directed production, given the sparsity of the play’s original stage directions. It was difficult to discern whether the little details in the interaction between the characters were directorial choices or ad-lib from the actors, which added even more to the cohesive nature of the show. There was a delightful blend of the traditional and modern, from the typical choice of regional accents (Northern for the maid and Bristolian for the servant) to the anachronistic dance-flirting, which reminded the audience that the show was very aware and critical of convention. Set and costume were minimal and appropriate, and the lighting was effective so as to go largely unnoticed, as it should be in a not-so-thought-provoking comedy.
The production was very much fringe-appropriate; it is at home with an audience wanting and willing to laugh at jokes of the low hanging fruit variety (pardon the pun). Many of the laughs came from sexual innuendo and slapstick, so for those after something warm and ridiculous, Forbidden Fruitentertains and ends too soon.