Brighton Fringe 2022
Three good friends – and great performers – present an evening’s entertainment featuring breathtaking highs, cathartic lows, and a helluva lot of onions.
There’s a wonderful familial warmth in the room before anyone says a word – all three performers are there, boogying to the pre-show music, exchanging cheeky smiles with us and amongst themselves. We quickly learn that this conviviality is not just for show – the three are friends from a young age, who clearly have a lot of genuine affection for each other. It has the feeling – at least until the half-way stage at which point it coalesces into something more coherent that addresses serious themes – of a bunch of flatmates having a load of silly late-night ideas and being crazy enough to bung them in front of an audience and see what works. And yeah it really does work.
It’s billed as cabaret, and features many familiar cabaret tropes – circus tricks, miming to pop songs, choreographed sequences, wacky shit – but it also borders on theatre. There are moments of serious heart-to-heart, bitter recriminations and tender rekindling of friendships, which perhaps don’t work as well at the noisy Spiegeltent as they would in a more focused black box space (and it’s not helped by a horrendously drunk and heckly contingent in the audience, though the cast deal with this very well).
There is some serious skill on show that extends well beyond fielding heckles. The stand-out performer is 23-year-old Daisy Minto (I know how old she is because she tells us her date of birth about ten times). She has an incredibly warm rapport with the audience, and an amazingly mature generosity of spirit towards her fellow performers.
The evening’s circus virtuosity comes from Adam Fullick – a master of the Cyr wheel (you know, the thing a bit like a massive hula hoop that makes you look like the Vitruvian Man and nearly takes yer fingertips off on every revolution). And Rachel Elizabeth Coleman completes the tremendous trio – a fab actor with incredible emotional depth who’s also really good at destroying leeks by whacking them on the floor.
Which brings me on to the theme. We’re warned not to attend if we’re allergic to members of the plant genus Allium, which it’s fairly safe to say the cast aren’t. Onions literally go flying. Hundreds of the buggers, I reckon. One performer submits to the torture of having a load of them torn apart and practically rubbed in her face. There’s also an ingenious non-confrontational onion-based system of selecting a volunteer from the audience (and boy was he a riot this evening – got almost as many belly-laughs out of us as the cast).
I spend a good while – as reviewers should – pondering the symbolism of the primary prop and how it relates to the theme of the unfolding events; is it something about the many layers of friendship? or the multi-faceted meanings within a work of art? or something about crying crocodile tears? or onions’ supposed propensity to ward off evil spirits? No, the answer comes to us in a brilliantly-written denouement, and is better and more fitting than anything I’d conjured up. Supposedly, onions make excellent companion plants – they help nearby plants to grow. Just like true friends. And just like generous performers, like those gathered here, whose time onstage (and, I’m strongly inclined to believe, offstage too) is devoted to nurturing their fellow performers and helping each to give their all in providing us with a right-rollicking night out.
There are tears in the audience at the end. Not crocodile ones. And not Allium allergy ones either. And certainly not tears of sadness. Tears of togetherness, of triumph, of release. Yeah, all right, it’s a cliché, but… tears of joy.