A woman dressed as a giany potato reclines glamourously on a couch

‘Potatohead’, by Freddie Hayes

Review from: Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Pleasance Courtyard.

Freddie Hayes brings to Edinburgh a ‘mash’ up adaptation of Doctor Faustus with puppets, clowning and song. Not the usual type of show we review on Circus Diaries, but adding the description of ‘clowning’ to the show details has brought us to some different style stuff this year!

Freddie has created a delightful show, full of passion and promise. Her home made puppets, costumes and sets are the pinnacle of Edinburgh Fringe experience, and are a familiar reflection of the DIY aesthetic that directors Sh!t Theatre use in their own brilliant work. Goofy wobbly eyes and muppet style flappy mouths, their style fits perfectly with the tone the show aims to create. This is exactly the sort of show Fringe lovers should flock to see. Yes, the glamour and well-polished high end shows will draw people, but the home made, the personal, the artist driven project… that is what true connoisseurs seek!

Everything in the show is very heavy handed on the potato. You are given a small potato friend to take care of upon entering the show, Freddie is dressed as a giant potato throughout, and theres so many potato puns that there aren’t any left for me to use in this review. There are several sections during the show when the puppets really shine, a display of the seven deadly sins via potato, a handful of fries (literally) and a giant evil potato devil are just some of the bonkers and beautiful scenes sure to keep audiences talking long after the shows over.

Clowning is such a wide field to describe when it comes to what works and what doesnt, who likes what and when is enough enough. Each performer and audience will have different tastes. It seems Potatohead is a crowd pleaser though, the proof coming at the final act (even with small audiences Freddie makes those there feel connected and invested in the tale). A group sing-along is all that is required to send our potato up to potato heaven, and the audience reply with gusto. Truly the greatest test a clown can give themselves, will the audience, after seeing your tale, join you in your silliness? Yes. Yes we will. We join our potato friend in full force. Silly faces and voices are a clear speciality of this performer, there’s not so much slapstick really, but plenty of puns and clowning around with the audience.

The cabaret style intwines so many mediums, there’s films, there’s adverts, there’s musical elements, miniature worlds, and self-actualising asides. This must have been a huge undertaking and a lot of pre-work and work each day for only one person. Some parts are rough and ready, there’s certainly room to get better acquainted to editing and music mixing software. And although there may not be much call for a full hour-long show about a potato out there, it would do well to create a 15min, or 10min, version of the best parts and the cabaret/comedy club circuit would lap this right up. The story brings a complicated emotional journey of potato and performer to a satisfying end, and left me wanting to go buy a bag of crisps.

Hopefully the journey of the Edinburgh Fringe has been fruitful (or vegetable?) for Freddie Hayes and we think this performer is one to watch. We cant wait to see what they cook up in the future. (And Hooray! They left me one pun!)

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