The sight of Holly Beasley-Garrigan cheerfully chewing on a mandarin, sandwiched between a mirrored floor, a mirror ball and a giant blow up orange slice should be the first indicator that a traditional approach to storytelling is pretty much off menu in her one woman show Opal Fruits.
Grappling with the existential double bind of staying true to yourself and your background, whilst grimly accepting the requirement to evolve into the culturally accepted version of an artiste is at the raging, fiery heart of her story. Isn’t this what you’re supposed to do? What they want you to do? Shouldn’t trauma be rocket fuel for the creative? It’s an interesting question.
So, how do you tell the tale of five generations of women and their experiences on a council estate in south London in the current climate of class appropriation and poverty porn? The answer is (and from now on, must always be) talking fruit.
The innocent beauty of watching her foraging the stage and invoking such an abstract concept is a quiet slice of genius. It opens a direct line from her family to the audience, letting them speak their truth amid the chaos of her childhood, the crushing poverty of her upbringing and allows those traumatic events to be dealt with a lightness of touch that keeps all that darkness at arm’s length.
For the duration, Beasley-Garrigan rips the citrus out of art-washing, gentrification, even taking a juicy bite out of the hand that feeds – she’s looking at you, Arts Council of England – and uses every medium known to the stage in order to do it.
Beer soaked corsetry? Check. Ballet moves whilst reciting cod Shakespeare? Check. A Day-Glo Singing In The Rain cum Lion King cum Hardcore Garage mashup? You better believe it. Both pointed and playful, she skilfully toes the tightrope between existential rage, her own puckish, self-deprecating humour and the voices of those incredible women that helped put her in the spotlight. No singing though – Nan won’t have it. And no falling into a catch net of self-pity either.
Two truths from Opal Fruits to take home with you – “Confectionary doesn’t have class – except Lindt” and “Fuck the Tories”. I think we can all learn from that.