Review from: Assembly Rooms ‘Bijou’ Spiegeltent, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 19th August 2022
Wild Onion is billed as ‘a narrative cabaret blending theatre, dance and circus arts’ from Orange Skies Theatre Company. There is a narrative. And there are dance sequences and a circus element to this show. How well they are blended is not such a sure thing.
Performers Daisy Minto, Adam Fullick and Rachel Elizabeth Coleman play three best friends who each have a difficult thing happen to them, and the show is about them supporting each other with friendship through these troubling times. Adam provides the circus element of the show with a Cyr wheel routine.
As the audience take their seats our cast are on stage, music playing. They chat, sway, look about for something to do… is this part of the show? Once everyone is in, Daisy, our main protagonist throughout, begins by saying they need an audience member to join them…someone must be….The Onion! An exciting prospect! A bold audience member raises their hand, and is given the role of Onion: they have a script, and when a special light turns on that means it’s their turn to speak. This role is immediately underwhelming as an idea, and has all the fun sucked out of it in the first section. No room for improvising with an audience, no indication that this is a fun tool that makes each show different, no intertwining of the audience member into more of the plot. It’s just, we need you to read this. Accurately.
I’m not sure why a live audience member has to be the Onion and a recording couldn’t just be used. Or one of the other performers. Because that’s another thing: if there’s one thing the performers have a lot of in this show, it’s time on their hands. To just sit or stand at the side of the stage. Most of this show is one person doing something and the other two staring at them, trying to be convincing that they haven’t seen the show before.
We learn through the show that each character is dealing with a trouble, which the friends try to solve with the kind of wishy-washy advice you get on the back of smoothie bottles. ‘Have you tried just breathing?’ ‘Sometimes it’s good to cry’. ‘I think I’m acting out because I’m anxious!’ You know the type I mean.
The problems the characters face are actually quite serious, but it’s all performed in such a way that none of it ever feels like a real problem. There’s a lot of hamming it up going on. It’s not that anything was particularly wrong…it was just cringe. Over worded and over done in so many places. Some lines delivered had us squirming in our seats.
Circus-wise, the Cyr wheel routine is fine. The wheel is introduced throughout the show with all performers having a hand in pushing and twirling, using it together. It’s great to see props incorporated into movement of the whole cast, it’s much less jarring. But it’s Adam who takes it for a real spin. Sadly, however, it feels nowhere near the level of some other Cyr wheel at the Fringe and dangerously below what would be passable in a cabaret or full circus show. Adam is capable of delivering a strong routine full of well connected tricks and skill but in this show it fails to rouse a strong emotional reaction. It falls a bit flat and we get the feeling this is an ‘easy’ show to do (it has since been pointed out that a Spiegeltent stage is notoriously difficult for Cyr wheel, see below-Ed.). He gets the loudest applause of the evening when done, but it’s more just because something exciting has finally happened.
There are a lot of unusual moments in the show: filling a jumper with onions, smashing leeks… there’s an absolutely delicious soupy smell by the end of it all. At one point, one character asks of another, ‘what was that all about?’….no reply. Of the 11 audience members, 3 of them left. Who can say why. The Fringe is a busy time and shows overlap for a lot of people…
It’s hard work bringing a show to the Fringe and, although this troupe are only doing two weeks rather than four, that is still commendable. The work and preparation that goes into bringing a show here shouldn’t be over-looked and its clear this new company have tried very hard. Perhaps an external director could help iron out some of the awkwardness produced by company’s internal devising process. Onwards and upwards from here, we hope.