BWW Review: FUP: A MODERN FABLE, Nuffield Southampton Theatres
Fup: A Modern Fable brings Jim Dodge's novel from the page and onto the stage. Adapted and directed by Simon Harvey, the tale takes place in the depths of Cornwall, at the haphazard home of a centenarian, a slightly drunken duck, and a large man called Tiny.
What begins as a birthday party becomes a carefully woven tale of love, loss, and invention, with some twists and turns along the way.
Grandaddy Jake (Dave Mynne) isn't your conventional pensioner. He has a taste for causing chaos, but when his grandson Tiny (Calvin A. Dean) has his little life turned upside down, he is thrust into the role of doting grandparent. He doesn't wave his unusual outlook on life goodbye completely, and we watch Tiny grow up in a quirky environment, alongside an adorable rescued duck, Fup.
As the story unfolds, things come to a head, and peace is shattered by harsh realities and misunderstandings. Lessons are well and truly learned - as one would expect from a self-proclaimed fable!
This is one adorable and loveable production. A small cast of just six fill so many roles, you could swear the stage was full. Along with a stunning set, complete with a house with surprises behind each door, they transform a tiny corner of Cornwall into a fairy tale cottage straight from a bedtime book.
Fup addresses modern-day concerns - including the care system, ageing and inheritance - and mixes them with the classic story-time tropes of the missing parents, the misunderstood guardian, and the faithful animal friend.
The aforementioned cast is lively and brimming with character. Dave Mynne's Grandaddy is brazen and rebellious, swigging from his potent home-brew potion and harbouring a heart of gold under his rugged and disheveled exterior. Calvin A. Dean's Tiny (and his wonderfully rogue postman) is loveable and broken, battling demons and trying to cope with his past.
Jenny Beare plays Tiny's mum, Gabrielle, with tenderness and a down-to-earth nature, and reappears throughout the performance in different guises - along with Rachel Leonard - with playful flexibility and spirit.
Zaid Al-Rikabi and Ben Sutcliffe accompany the performance with their extensive and impressive musical talents. Perhaps 'accompany' is the wrong word, as their skills knit the story together and polish off poignancy with playful and vibrant music that evokes strong emotion. They bring us into the play in full-on party mode, with countrified medleys of modern hits, before telling the story unfolding on stage through sound, creating a feast for all senses.
The enchantment is continued via puppetry throughout, created by Lyndi Wright and directed by Sarah Wright. Fup, the larger-than-life duck (in both size and attitude), is handled by Rachel Leonard, who also brings Tiny to life as an adorable toddler.
This simple performance method brings charm and tradition to this modern classic; again, emulating storytelling methods of days gone by, and eschewing any flashy, technological props in favour of the magic of imagination. Indeed, you hardly notice Rachel as she manoeuvres her characters around the stage with immense skill and, clearly, love. Fup the duck really does have her own personality - possibly helped by all of Grandaddy's home-brew she enjoys throughout the show!
The family feel of the production is accentuated by the way the tight-knit cast works together. Indeed, the show is marketed towards families (to children over ten, to be exact) and much like a pantomime or a fairytale film, there's something for all ages.
Adult jokes, audience participation, and allusions are peppered throughout, combined with slapstick, physical comedy and emotions that can be felt on all levels. It is bound to delight a full range of ages. You are never too old for a fairy tale, and never too young to learn a lesson.
Fup is a fast-moving and creative production. Although there is a very slight plateau in the middle when there is a little less action, the production runs incredibly smoothly as the cast glide through each scene with ease.
This contemporary fable is full of little messages, both serious and fun, that can be cherrypicked according to personal preference. The main moral of the story, though? Break down the barriers and limitations we build around us. You are guaranteed to shed a tear or two when you least expect it, thanks to a surprisingly emotional ending.
Fup combines whimsy and magic with wit and melancholy to create something truly home-grown and heartwarming which leaves you as every fable or fairytale should: content, reflective and completely enchanted.
Photo credit: Steve Tanner