|Date:||Tuesday 9th August 2016|
Kneehigh and O-region
Adapted & Directed by Simon Harvey
In this, the second part of Kneehigh’s summer season at the Asylum, the company leap from the subtle beauty of The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk to a gloriously mad piece of Cornish insanity with FUP. Continuing their close relationship with O-region’s Simon Harvey, the Kneehigh company granted Simon’s long held dream to bring Jim Dodge’s novel to the stage.
For some time Simon has endeared himself to Cornish audiences as a compelling stage and screen performer, but his brilliant directorial abilities have recently made him the go to man for a raft of companies. Performers who work under Simon’s direction say he gets the absolute best out of them because he is so good at what he does that they simply want to please him; Simon should be very pleased indeed with his new production.
The story of the family Santee translates perfectly from redneck America to redneck Cornwall; Grandaddy Jake is a gambling, womanising alcoholic happily living a solitary life out in the wilds. Jake survives on illicit card games and his personal distillery which ferments an interesting meditational concoction known as Ol’ Death Whisper. For 100 years Grandaddy Jake has flown under the radar of nosey governments and tax inspectors, but his life is turned upside down when he discovers he is the only living relative to his orphaned Grandson, Tiny. Fighting battles with a supercilious social worker, government departments and the tax man become an everyday occurrence for the old man and the boy. Grandaddy Jake is unable to relate to a small child suffering sadness and loss, allowing Tiny to run free in the fields until one day the boy arrives home with an egg, from which emerges a duck - a very special duck, and so FUP is born and life will never be the same again.
FUP is a bright, colourful riot of Cornishness and Simon has gathered together a terrific cast to thrill, delight and shock us with this anarchic story of family love and unity. Kneehigh stalwart Dave Mynne is sublime in the role of Grandaddy Jake, as an audience we love him and then we don’t like him very much, we laugh loudly at and with him and we warmly support him until he stuns us into silence.
Joining elder statesman Dave are some new names to the Kneehigh family - Polruan born Calvin A. Dean has been busy carving a successful screen career which launched when he appeared alongside Keira Knightley in The Duchess. Calvin is perfect as Tiny, evoking love and sympathy in equal measure as he becomes obsessed with fences and keeping family safe inside, safe, that is, until he finally realises the truth about Grandaddy Jake.
Jenny Beare has earned her stripes with various Cornish companies and richly deserves the role of Gabrielle, the young bride, then young widow before she herself leaves this mortal coil. Jenny beautifully portrays Gabrielle, but also performs a raft of other roles, including a vet, a doctor and a prim, but raunchy spinster who becomes Grandaddy Jake’s wife ‘with ground rules’.
Wonderful music is at the heart of every Kneehigh production and Musical Director, multi talented Ben Sutcliffe, ensures that FUP’s musical accompaniment is as good as it gets. Ben and his equally talented fellow musician from The People’s String Foundation, Zaid Al-Rikabi, fill the theatre with lively get down and dirty country tunes, clearly loving every minute of their first appearance in a Kneehigh show.
Puppeteer and actress Rachel Leonard has previously worked with Kneehigh, so it is no surprise to find her in charge of the fabulous FUP. Rachel brings FUP to life as a central character, FUP’s movements, facial expressions, comic timing and vocals are down to Rachel’s magic touch and her uncanny ability to become so at one with the puppet that she is almost invisible. Rachel is also brilliant as the bossy and officious social worker Miss Gadderley.
The amazing puppets have been created by Lindie Wright, while Rosanna Vize has designed an imaginative and clever set; Malcolm Rippeth’s stunning lighting is itself a work of art and the great talents of sound man Andy Graham are once again in evidence.
FUP is larger than life, outrageously naughty, uproariously funny, anarchic and joyous, but will ultimately break your heart into tiny pieces.
Thank you Kneehigh for making Simon Harvey’s dream come true and thank you Simon Harvey for never letting go of that dream; for having the courage of your convictions to bring us the richly emotive wonders of FUP.