Saturday 16th February 2019 at York Theatre Royal.
Fallen Fruit is a solo show of personal experience, pointed political edge and undeniably glaring relevance. Watching this show against the alarming backdrop of Brexit and Trump’s tactical ‘State of Emergency’ to secure funding for his border wall, there’s a cold chill of foreboding to be felt. But this show focuses on the fall of the Berlin Wall and the experience of living through both its reign and fall.
Fallen Fruit tells a number of stories against this political backdrop. Radeva talks of her parents and how as a seven year old child her life was shaken up completely by the this huge political upheaval. She also talks of mischievous pets and various sources of young pride, injecting warmth and humour very sincerely. Alongside that narrative, she talks of a pair of coffee loving lovers struggling against the tides of their opposing needs.
One of the most winning elements of Radeva’s show is the use of Bulgarian and English to deliver reported conversations. Minus actors, her couple are represented by marked boxes and she depicts two secret lovers (a nod to LGBTQ+ oppression amidst all the other overt impressions) caught up in the turmoil of lives hidden in secret coffee spots and behind tall walls. Half of the conversations are spoken in English and the other in Bulgarian, marrying the ideas of difference and all that those two languages represent with delicate power.
Language is also used as a fine tool to give us an insight into seven year old Radeva’s puzzling, thrilling and frightening experiences within a politically charged landscape. There’s a lovely sequence which combines the comedy and innocence of childhood with the intrusion of needs for survival which hammers home the disconnect felt by children in difficulties created by adults.
There’s additional impressive symbolism to be found in the closed boxes framing the stage space and used heavily to illustrate the narrative. Those dominant boxes seem to say that walls and riots are the tools with which people are boxed up and parcelled off, or not – if you fight hard enough, you can exit the box, but if not, it’s a box within a box behind a very high wall for all of us.
Radeva’s show combines disparate styles to make a series of points about belonging and what is perceived as progress.
At times the it feels like an inspirational graduation speech. At times it feels like a lecture. At times it feels like spoken word poetry.
Other times, it takes on the mantle of a weird and quirky late night game show, one featuring a presenter seemingly three quarters of the way down a bottle and maybe hopped up on something stronger, who incongruously poses questions centred around communism, rebellion and democracy.
Turning once more, the show at times takes shape as abstract, physical storytelling in reassuring, enveloping tones which wouldn’t be out of place at the local library’s Kids Hour. It’s remarkable that a show channeling so many approaches and styles should contain clarity of message. Yet while the ever shifting gears do create variety and interest, and meaning is mostly intact, they also detract from an overall sense of narrative cohesion – which may well be the intention of course – but I found it all a little muddled at times.
Fallen Fruit captures the political unease surrounding us right now through a personal exploration of the past. It offers both reflections and questions in well constructed teachable moments which happen to have far too much cold relevance for comfort. Through warmth, comedy and charisma, Radeva offers plenty of food for thought, but ultimately, she leaves us to decide how the fruit of true democracy could taste.
Fallen Fruit is created and performed by Radeva and directed by Alister Lownie. The show is produced and presented by Two Destination Language.