It’s wonderful to see the GM Fringe back in Manchester. It has always been the highlight of my year; giving audiences the chance to be able to watch affordable theatre in local venues that are spread across the city.
It’s also a great opportunity to discover local emerging talent and support the fringe community, rather than just the big shows at the Palace Theatre or the Opera House. With ticket prices being around £5 – £10, it is much cheaper too!
Kicking off the 2021 GM Fringe with some much needed comedy, Elephant in the Closet theatre company bring their show, Why I Am An Avocado to The Empty Space Theatre, formerly known as Footlights, located in the back streets of Media City.
Instantly breaking the fourth wall, the audience are warmly greeted by Keith and Delilah, who wear smart avocado coloured suits. From the off, the pair build a friendly rapport with the audience, welcoming us to take part in a mysterious programme of motivational speaking and finding inner truth. This is blended with interesting facts about avocados that are spontaneously dotted throughout the piece.
In addition to this, Keith takes up the role of an agony aunt, in Callum’s Corner, almost in the format of BBC’s Points of View, reading amusing letters from viewers of his day-time television show. His deadpan humour and response to these letters is highly comical and incredibly entertaining, quickly becoming my personal highlights from the show.
The easy, friendly rapport that the pair built earlier with the audience pays dividends as Why I Am An Avocado begins to heavily rely on audience participation. An unfortunate Romeo is plucked from the audience and others have to speak their inner truths and utter confessions.
If you aren’t a fan of audience participation then this certainly isn’t the show for you. Our unsuspecting Romeo ended up becoming a permanent part of the show, as he had to sit on stage throughout the majority of it. Whilst it was highly entertaining to watch him suffer, particularly as I know for a fact that he actually hates Shakespeare, I had to remind myself that this audience member paid for a ticket to watch the show; not become a permanent part of it. There were large segments of the play where he appeared to be forgotten about and had to watch the back of the performers’ heads as they continued the show. I genuinely started to feel sorry for him.
As the structure and pacing of the play became deliberately more fragmented, I started to question where this is all heading, what exactly is going on, and what is this mysterious programme that we’re now enrolled on? As I was thoroughly enjoying the play’s comedy and having such a good time with Keith and Delilah, I wasn’t adverse to finding out.
When it all becomes apparent, the tone dramatically shifts and the piece delivers a deft blow to the audience, made all the worse because we guiltily became part of it, enjoying our induction to the programme, whilst happily remaining oblivious to its mission. We lapped up Keith and Delilah’s mantras without questioning them, leading to a powerful moment of self-reflection that proves their skill as both performers and writers.
Now that Elephant in the Closet are on my radar, I look forward to seeing what they do next!