Beginning by leading its audience into a set coated with scrawled and fragmented phrases, Fresh Apples wears its literary influences proudly on its ink-stained sleeve from the start. As you enter via this thought-provoking textual guard of honour, where scraps of ideas are projected on crudely torn pieces of cardboard, don’t expect a clear-cut transformation from text to play. Incorporating an experimental playfulness with words, the performance is set to shatter the text into props, inviting the audience to chew over meaning and draw out all the ambiguities and powers of the words they see.
Director and founder of Be:Spoken Theatre, Julie Barclay, describes this way of entering theatre as ‘quite an anarchical protest’ where ‘sometimes the meaning changes because of the order words are put in’. This interrogation of meaning and space is something that Be:Spoken Theatre want to bring across in every aspect of their production. For this reason, Fresh Apples will be performed in tactileBOSCH, a former laundry house in Llandaff North. Barclay aims to ‘create a world’ which ‘is already quite grown in and quite lived in’ by the time the audience enter. So in this unconventional theatre-space we see the emergence of an organic world, charged with inspiration and reluctant to settle.
This world in turn is a fertile, organic ground for three-dimensional identities to develop from stories that are already rich in dry humour and power. Fresh Applesare gritty tales that are inspired, not just adapted, from south-Wales based Rachel Tezise’s thrillingly local collection of short stories, of the same name. Yet in the theatrical representation, characters are given extra history as plot-lines grow out of the original text like new branches. Taking key tropes which link the short stories, such as the phone which acts as an important way of escaping from claustrophobic worlds, Barclay has fleshed out complete characters who balance good and bad, strong and weak, self-assured and uneasy.
This is a work in development, an alive and lyrical force fresh with discussions and an organic, growing production. As they pull the poetry of the original text into an enriched and real performance, the company are set to give us an intense and emotive interaction with the symbols of the play, supplementing an already vivid script and powerfully expressing the characters’ confusion and anxieties.
first published in Buzz