Pleasance Courtyard – Beneath
Talking about the working class has become trendy. If you want to get funding, you really need to write a show about growing up on an estate. This advice prompted Holly Beasley-Garrigan to create Opal Fruits, her own personal experience of all the above.
The title is of course a reference to the sweets that, on the tail end of the last millennium, changed their name to Starburst to match their US counterpart. “Confectionary doesn’t have class”, she points out, so candies taste the same regardless of one’s upbringing. The four fruits that consisted of its original flavours offer a theme for the set design, both in shape and colour. Lighting, props and the projections on the back wall are vibrant. Throughout, the pounding soundtrack is religiously garage.
Fruits are also a metaphorical representation of Holly’s family members. I do wonder how her sister received being compared to a lemon! This isn’t just her autobiographical story, it is also a tribute to five generation of women who spent their lives in the same South London council estate, of their generosity and resilience.
Watching it with the eyes of someone who was also a teenager in the 90’s and who faced comparable challenges, the show is practically perfect. The sustained pace, the acid colours, the fragmented narrative, all encompass a unique creative style that belongs to those years. A RADA graduate – this will be a crucial topic – Beasley-Garrigan has a well-rounded understanding of the performing arts and masterfully relies on diverse media and disciplines to translate her ideas onto the stage.
Mind you, at no point is this a celebration of the decade where so many struggled to get by, trapped in the benefits system, stuck in areas that didn’t offer any opportunities to their communities. This is a stirring criticism of poverty porn, of those who nowadays piggyback on the subject-matter to make themselves look cool. It oozes frustration for the privileged kids in disguise, who walk the streets wearing 90’s cheap synthetic clothes that back then weren’t by choice. It is an often-spiteful piece, occasionally tender, aesthetically pleasing and very, very poignant.
By the way, in the last couple of years limited edition packets of the original Opal Fruits have made a come-back on the store shelves of Britain – a gift to all the 90’s nostalgic amongst us or, most likely, just another marketing ploy to exploit the trend.
Written by: Holly Beasley-Garrigan
Directed by: Maisie Newman
Produced by: Holly Beasley-Garrigan in association with Pleasance and Bristol Old Vic
Opal Fruits plays at EdFringe 2022 until 28 August. Further information and bookings here.