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  • Siobhan Wild

Water Fruit Loops - A Review

Rating: ***

It’s the first day of the Fringe, you’ve barely survived your journey down Lothian Road, attempted to confidently navigate the four thousand Cowgate venues, inevitably ended up being escorted by a member of box office staff, and bought an eye-wateringly expensive half-pint. But finally, you arrive at Just The Tonic’s ‘Just Up The Road’ for your first show of the month: Paradok Platforms’ Water Fruit Loops, written by Rorke Eloff Wilson.

Back for a second year, Water Fruit Loops is a surrealist take on the cyclical behaviour of Ronnie (Jenn Xing) who keeps sleeping with her ex, Steve (Nikita Matthews). Maritza Warnik and Olivia Clinch multirole as Ronnie’s flatmates David and Penny, and plot-controlling, God-fearing Elf 1 and Elf 2. Yeah, don’t worry, we’ll circle back to that.

At its core this play explores the classic twenty-something year old rom-com narrative of realising your worth and therefore ending toxic relationships. Wilson, along with the show’s director Marnie Camping-Harris, communicate this most successfully through the creation of a stylistic time-loop. A series of repeated scenes at the start of the play feature the gesture and movement of Warnik and Clinch going about their day being immaculately repeated whilst Xing becomes increasingly exasperated, with each scene concluding with Matthews sauntering in as Steve for a late-night booty call. The motif successfully shows how Ronnie was stuck in a harmful cycle she didn’t yet know how to get out of.

There were some other moments of stylistic success, such as Clinch’s monologue as Elf 2. Her charisma and conviction broke the fourth wall convincingly and engaged even a midday Fringe audience into volunteering for some on-stage participation. The parody of Paddy McGuinness’ Take Me Out (bringing audience members on stage in the hope of finding a new boy for Ronnie to obsess over) was refreshing due to its incongruence from the lower energy scenes it neighboured, a well-executed peak-and-trough structure which effectively communicated the short-lived adrenaline rush of dating after a break-up.

Wilson’s writing accurately and sympathetically captured the difficult, non-linear experience of becoming an adult. The audience’s knowing giggles during Ronnie’s sad-girl mimosa brunch with her flatmates, the tittered whispers between friends when Penny and David’s advice went unheeded, and the raucous laughter at the completely ineffective communication between Ronnie and Steve showed Wilson had successfully written a piece of theatre that resonated with the audience.

Generally, though, I found the play too stylistically complicated. The blurring of lines between naturalism, surrealism, Epic Theatre, and poetry left the play’s message feeling, well, a bit blurry in parts. For me, the actors’ naturalism lacked depth and their surrealism lacked conviction which made it difficult to appreciate the light and shade integral to accurately delivering a Brechtian piece like this.

Speaking of, I suppose it is also about time we addressed the elves in the room. The implementation of elf-narrators who were in charge of Ronnie’s life, until it was revealed that they weren’t, complicated the story for me. I assume their purpose was to remind the audience that this is a play about taking control over your life, that waiting around for divine intervention is never helping yourself, however I think more commitment to this Brechtian technique was needed for their purpose to be clear. Maybe next year the elves could be called ‘TikTok Tarot Readings’ and ‘Co-Star’ if they want to really hit the twenty-something women in the gut.

An oversaturation of stylistic techniques as well as the physical realities of the Just Up The Road theatre left the whole thing feeling a little…clunky. Triin Sulengo did a good job as Stage Manager with the space they had but there were several issues with the wings being too small and the lights coming up too early. These small fringe venues do pose an undeniable degree of difficulty, especially with rehearsal windows usually being very short, but the under rehearsed vibe of the piece did distract in areas. I also found the multiple references to last year’s Fringe reviews felt a little indulgent and tastelessly isolated the audience after a while, though I did enjoy how it generated the tragic comedy that both the play, and therefore Ronnie’s supposedly ended toxic relationship, are right back doing the same thing a year on.

Overall, whilst I was giggling throughout, I think the blending of this difficult coming-of-age narrative with the surrealist comic-relief could have generated more effective catharsis if it had been handled with more nuance from both the actors and the creative team, although it was enjoyable to watch.

Keep up with Water Fruit Loops on Instagram: @waterfruitloops


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