Brighton Fringe 2019
Fully deserving its wealth of plaudits, Fruit Loop plays out at Brighton Fringe.
Brighton Fringe has been clown central this year, with brilliant work from Garry Star, Jody Kamali, Lucy Hopkins and A&E Comedy to name a few. Fast becoming clown royalty is the peerless Lucy Pearman, who’s second solo show, Fruit Loop had its final ever performance at the end of May. Whilst I’m sorry for those who missed it, this means I can reveal some of the frankly bat-shit highlights of this beautiful hour-long show.
Pearman has a enjoyed a swift and deserved rise to comedy fame. Her debut 2017 show Maid of Cabbage won her the Edinburgh Fringe Best Newcomer Award and a run at Soho Theatre. Fruit Loop was five starred all over the press in 2018. In it she continues an obsession with vegetables and the natural world, telling the story of a worm unhappy in its skin.
What marks Pearman out is the gently joyful way she manipulates the audience into playing with her. Dressed as a bunch of grapes but calling herself mummy grape, speaking with a Mexican accent, wearing a moustache and floral headband you’d think might be confusing. But no, it all somehow makes sense and we feel for little grape (on this occasion a very game chap) and his oddball, demanding mother.
Every change of mood, costume or scene flows beautifully. There is great craft in how she devolves the puppetry onto the audience “I wiggle when I talk” she instructs the person who has become the worm. Craft too in audience misdirection. We assume she is behind the glitzy curtain peeping out at us “you in the glasses -yes you!” but she enters from behind us dancing down the aisle to La Bamba, cue sing-a-long with audience solos.
The appearance of a deaf potato, a showgirl with a gigantic mouth, and jokes about Ant & Dec’s chocolate labradors and Alistair Campbell being a camel with no humps might sound indulgently random, but Fruit Loop has a well constructed narrative with a heartfelt message about being happy in your skin. The worm who wants to fly turns out to a maggot; disappointment swiftly gives way to joy. In her home-made sculptural costumes and with minimal technical tricks Pearman invites us to her world and makes us part of it. She plays with scale, with levels of humour and pathos, with silliness and stillness and by the end a metamorphosis is a delightful pay off. My favourite moments, that demonstrate Pearman’s innate theatrically are the precision with which, as a human-size worm, she repeatedly lip-synchs ‘mmmm’ and, when a tall figure clad in a black body suit creeps silently around the side of the stage , she shouts “Get out!” then quietly adds “You got one of them?”
In her next show, its rumoured Pearman will spend a fair amount of time as a talking suitcase; you can be sure it won’t be excess baggage.