Holly Beasley-Garrigan‘s one-woman show Opal Fruits is an hour of nostalgia, laden with 90’s tidbits. Based during a time when UK Garage was all the rage, tracksuits weren’t worn ironically and Starbursts were yet to be known as such, we are regaled with tales of the council estate in East London where four generations of working- class women grew up.
Through seemingly out-of-character direct address, Beasley-Garrigan uses audience participation to get her point across. Her point being that the irony is that the aesthetic of the working class is now en vogue. She makes the poignant remark that people are now adopting the ‘look’ of a working-class person without having to experience any of the repercussions of being from that background.
As a first solo show it has legs, however the delivery leaves room for improvement. Beasley-Garrigan uses costume changes to differentiate characters, however rather than demonstrate them, she merely tells us about them. There is no change in intonation or physical movement, so it’s not really one for those wanting to see a real transformation of character.
Engaging scenes fall victim to overplaying the moment, resulting in rambling, repetitive tropes which cause an ebb and flow of attention. That being said, there are moving moments which pierce through to the grim reality of the struggles of the time as well as legitimate humour, particularly at the beginning when an audience member inadvertently volunteers to become her dresser, which soon gets the audience involved in yays or nays to specific items for the character that has been described to us.
Sorcha Strzala’s lighting design and Ed Eldridge’s sound design enhance this bare bones piece. The use of verbatim during transitions emanates nostalgia, as scene changes are often layered with 90’s classics including ‘Saturday Night’ by Whigfield and more classic hits by artists like the Vengaboys.
The overall tone of this evening is frantic. Beasley-Garrigan obviously has many great ideas she wants to share, however more unpicking and developing needs to be done to raise it to the heights it has the potential to rise to. Her material is encouraging, and she is one to watch.
Opal Fruits played at The Vaults as part of the VAULT Festival until 27 January 2019. For more information and tickets, visit the VAULT Festival website.