Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: Losing the Plot, Fruit Bowl Theatre Company, EdFringe 2023 ★★☆☆☆

Taking a playwriting twist on the ‘Battle of the Bands’ trope in coming-of-age stories, Fruit Bowl Theatre Company offer up some great nostalgic tunes and a lively character-driven story in their jukebox musical Losing the Plot. Following a bunch of young playwrights who band together to compete for a playwriting prize with an all new show concept. Cheekily meta, this was genuinely a pleasant experience to start off the day. However, the piece as a musical fails to have a sense of resonance and wholeness, leaving the takeaway moment feeling shallow. The characters are a little too one-dimensional, the story and music not fantastically integrated, and the musical performances too quiet. Should the story be reworked and the characters filled in, this piece could pull off its ambitious aims.

Writer Eric Little finds a poster advertising a playwriting competition and hires out a village hall to fill with his friends (and enemies?) to help put the whole thing together. The fact that this is taking place in a village hall isn’t explained until right at the end, nor are the circumstances which brought this group of unlikely pals together. Amongst Eric’s crew are couple Evelyn and Angie, theatre kid and science geek, as well as some more ostentatious characters too. David Bowie stan and space-obsessed Stella rocks moon boots and Bowie merch and at every turn suggests they make the show a little more sci-fi. Opera singer and conductor Camilla wants to bring that operatic edge, and emo girl Scarlet wants to bring an element of rock chic to the piece. Beyond Angie and Evelyn’s relationship, the other characters remain a little too one-dimensional to connect with, with only their obsessions on show. The lack of connection between the group leaves the stakes feeling low, and the performances a little too on-the-nose.

The show’s stand-in for a villain, Beck, is creating a rival show of her own, and it soon becomes clear that her and Angie have unfinished business to attend to. The central love triangle doesn’t really establish what left Angie and Beck apart in the first place, but does well to attend to how Evelyn reduces Angie’s personality in her dominating presence. A little bit more nuance could be added here to make sure we feel a greater connection to what’s happened, and as with everyone else we don’t really ever get enough context about who is here and why to make it mean something deeper to us. This rings true with the central character with Eric, who dithers in importance to the plot once the eclectic bunch of faces are introduced. It seems strange that with a relatively strong Queer relationship centring the piece, Eric is still punted as the main character, who doesn’t really have a solid character arc.

One thing that would instantly improve this piece is projection. Performing to a thrust stage, I was sat in one of the side wings and virtually heard nothing of some of the singers’ voices. The actor playing Camilla has the strongest voice of the bunch, and this is used to their advantage at several dramatic intervals. The piece plays around with what precisely a jukebox musical is – to be classed as a musical the songs need to be story moments in their own right rather than embellishments to the plot. I would say this is true of some of the numbers and not others. This isn’t strictly a bad thing, and generally the song choices were well received and slotted into the show’s tone and texture without issue.

Fruit Bowl have done a great job in their queer representation, validating and affirming the queer sexualities of some of the characters with ease. It’s a lovely thing to see from a young and forthright company. They should be super pleased with themselves that they’ve put this show on and brought it to the Fringe, I think they need a little more time to cut their teeth as artists and performers to create a show that works more fluidly. I hope I get to see more work from them in the future.

Recommended Drink: Take the company’s namesake and grab a juicy fruit cocktail for this one – something tangy, zingy, and fresh.

You can catch Losing the Plot until August 19th at TheSpace @ Niddry St – Lower Theatre at 09:55. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.

Jake Mace

Our Lead Editor & Edinburgh Editor. Jake loves putting together reviews that try to heat-seek the essence of everything they watch. They are interested in New Writing, Literary Adaptations, Musicals, Cabaret, and Stand-Up. Jake aims to cover themes like Class, Nationality, Identity, Queerness, and AI/Automation.

Festivals: EdFringe (2018-2023), Brighton Fringe (2019), Paris Fringe (2020), VAULT Festival (2023), Prague Fringe (2023-24), Dundee Fringe (2023)
Pronouns: They/Them
Contact: jake@bingefringe.com