"Intriguing piece belied by script."
by Patrick Cash for remotegoat on 08/04/10

Never Any Fruit is a polished production examining the idiosyncratic dynamics between two unlikely oddballs seeking to make their way in a frayed world via occasional splashes of autism, infinity, cancer and a whole deluge of emotional turbulence. A lot to load on one's theatrical plate one might presume and unfortunately this is exactly where this play goes awry: despite its inherent sleekness and thoughtful direction, there is simply too much seemingly flippantly thrown in designed to tug on the audience's heartstrings that produces a wholly opposite effect. When repeatedly smothered in guileless attempts at saccharine sentimentality one finds very little of genuinely stirring emotion in the brew.

Admittedly this is a fault mostly to do with the writing than the production itself; and it is a shame to criticize so scathingly when director Kate McGregor has done such a wonderful job pouring life into the characters and their interaction, the set and costumes display a great amount of successful consideration behind them and Tiffany Haynes gives a truly brilliant performance as ingenue Isla Rose.

But the strand of autism rings false from the start, as if writer Dougie Blaxland had simply read The Curious Incident of the Dog and the Night-Time and decided to carelessly shove this volatile subject into his play without the necessary research or appropriate subtlety to do it justice. A supposedly tear-jerking speech within the first fifteen minutes of Jack's inability to detect falsity in his peers' voices is entirely belied by the rest of his performance where he is often seen to use sarcasm, a form of humour indecipherable to the autistic.

Unconvincing dialogue provides another barrier to true enjoyment of the stage action, and a word of advice would be to remove the inadvertently hilarious 'slow-motion' sequences between scenes in the first half which inexplicably disappear anyway in the second half. What is most evident throughout though is that the majority of the themes incorporated into the play's being seem to be flimsy set-pieces bereft of the supporting substance to add anything to the performance. An exploration of a naïve girl's interpolation with a brilliant but mentally skewed boy is more than enough material for a fascinating piece of theatre; it doesn't require superficial explorations into the nature of infinity or a bizarre plot-device that both protagonists are suffering from cancer. Is one of them going to die? Well, what do you think?

There are the distinct glimmers of something wonderful upon the stage at this Pleasance production, almost all factors are operating at the top levels of their game, only the script itself still seems to be languishing at draft level.

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