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Blossom Tree Productions presents

Never Any Fruit

 

 

by Dougie Blaxland

 

Directed by Kate McGregor

 

Assistant Director & Co- Producer  – Kim Moakes

 

Production Designer – Allison Neighbour

 

Lighting Designer & Operator – Claire Childs



Sound Design – Nicholas Hutson & Kate McGregor

 

Pleasance Theatre

6 -25 April 2010

 

 


 

 

A review by James Buxton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

The Pleasance Theatre off the Caledonian Road is located in an old warehouse at the end of a courtyard.  Heavy chains and iron hooks hang down from a winch beside the theatre's balcony entrance. It is an atmospheric venue that has at its heart a simple black box theatre.

Never Any Fruit is a two hander about an unusual relationship between Isla Rose (Tiffany Haynes), a ditsy aspiring actress and Jack Lane (Ian Baksh), a precocious maths genius with Asperger's Syndrome. Humour and sympathy combine in Dougie Blaxland's script as Jack is unable to comprehend sarcasm and irony, taking Isla Rose's every word literally, automatically blurting out “unf***” when Isla Rose swears. For Jack however, time is running out, as cancer threatens to take his life; he throws himself into his work even more vigorously.

Ian Baksh provides a powerfully, compelling performance of an intense young man only able to comprehend the world through logic. In glasses and a brown shirt buttoned to the top, Baksh depicts the obsessive nature of Asperger's syndrome, reciting the postcode for any house in the whole of England; he is the youngest Cambridge postgraduate ever and is working on a doctorate on equations for infinity.  Baksh conveys the frustration and anxiety of a brilliant mind through manic, nervous gestures and introverted body language. He fiddles with his glasses and sways his head while always staring down; unable to keep eye contact and maintains a nasal monotone, speaking quickly and with little confidence. The victim of traumatic bullying at school he exudes the impression of a shy, young man who prefers his calculations to the company of people.

Tiffany Haynes in a trendy floral dress and leggings plays Isla Rose, ironically a drama school student, she is an exuberant, flirtatious young woman who is attracted to Jack's prodigious intellect and finds his social innocence strangely fascinating. Yet Isla Rose is also deeply insecure, her skittish behaviour and cheery attitude thinly mask her own longing for reassurance that she is talented and beautiful. Haynes plays the role with a lot of breathless energy as she attempts to draw Jack out of himself, she playfully teases him as she plays with her hair and wanders around his chair. Her performance is earnest and impassioned, but relies a little too heavily on ending her sentences with nervous laughter to convey the insecurity of Isla Rose, which after a while becomes somewhat irksome.

McGregor's direction of Never Any Fruit pays attention to the little details that makes Haynes and Baksh's relationship more believable. Haynes at one point calculates exactly how many hours and minutes are left before she returns from a holiday with her boyfriend to see Jack, in tribute to Jack's obsession with numbers. In numerous asides, she replays moments she has spent with him in her head and expresses her worries and regrets. Through these asides McGregor makes us aware of how universal, relationship anxieties are.
 
Throughout the production the lighting, designed by Claire Childs, is unobtrusive and serves to illuminate the actors. At certain moments however it changes to blue and the actors movements become incredibly slow, suggesting they are going back in time; these set pieces feel quite strained to produce an experimental style and break the fluidity of the play.

The set focuses on two chairs and a small table which Jack methodically lines his pens up on. The actors move the chairs and table throughout the play to designate the various locations and times, with Jack and Isla Rose sitting beside each other when they are at her apartment and Isla Rose further downstage when she is on holiday.

The space is sparse but it allows the sound effects, such as the buzzer of her front door, to help locate the action and contribute to creating the desired environments. At one point Jack comically sings along to: “Alright now” as he listens to it on his IPod.  Music provides a release for him that distracts him from the frantic workings of his mind.

McGregor has sensitively brought a good script to life, paying attention to the details that help to make their relationship more believable. The themes of space and infinity are imaginatively explored in an enjoyably didactic manner that makes you want to learn more about them. Baksh's performance is riveting and provides an insight into the highly strung mind of someone with Asperger's syndrome. In a play of such intensity however, Blaxland could have definitely shortened the script, which would have made it a little sharper and tightened the pace. But he should be commended for confidently grappling with such ambitious subject matter and increasing our understanding of a complicated issue.

 

 

 

Box Office 020 7609 1800

Pleasance Theatre
Carpenters Mews
North Road
London, N7 9EF

http://www.pleasance.co.uk/islington/via/performances.php?cmd=listPerformances&eventId=1800:500

8pm

Tickets: £11(£10)

 

 

 

 

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