Nail Polish written by Daisy Parker and Aaron Govey is a whirlwind of emotions. With a beautiful time-jumping plot it covers the lives of six queer young adults finding love and navigating queerness in London.
The show starts off so strongly with characters Sam, Aisa Nerva, and Joe, Jack Birkinshaw, sitting on the tube with the surrounding cast giving us verbatim clips of recent homophobic attacks in the Western world. We see a person square up to Joe and this begins the events of the night. This is an instant attention grabber, which instantly sets the mood. The main plot follows Sam, Joe and friends at a New Year party post attack and so the scene is set.
There are so many things I love about Nail Polish from the unadulterated queerness, the in-jokes that all the queer kids know (I mean who wasn’t sobbing at the end of Pride), the genuine love and depiction of it. It was a gift and a really heartwarming story. I thought the writing by Parker and Grover was fresh and felt very genuine. I loved the costuming by Katie Pidgeon and thought everyone looked genuinely cool. I particularly loved the styling of Gray Enever who played Becky. It’s obvious the story was important to the cast and crew and I loved watching that come through in the performance.
Ryley Pennycard, who played the life of the party Austin was a particular standout for me. I thought they played the character of Austin so incredibly well especially when contrasted with their multirole as Mitchell (Aaron Govey) and Becky’s homophobic and scary father. It was a real pleasure to watch Pennycard play both roles.
Unfortunately, there were a few moments of exasperation for me throughout the show. Firstly, and for me, the most important issue was the set transitions. In between every scene, we saw the cast constantly moving the set. Pulling the futon out and in, moving boxes, putting on coats etc. As it is, this is a huge pet peeve for me, but this isn’t a pedantic issue. I genuinely feel like this impacted the performance a lot.
The show was just short of an hour, I would say- or at least it felt like- 20 minutes of that was set transitions. This is 20 minutes of dead time. Unfortunately, the set didn’t add a lot to the show. I loved the little boxes, but was it necessary to make the futon a bed again and again? Due to how much time was spent housekeeping (for lack of a better word) I felt as if the scenes themselves were rushed and so short. Every actor was battling to get their lines out and at times it felt as if they were thinking about what was next rather than passively acting and listening. I can’t blame this all on the set transition, of course, part of this does come down to direction too. However, I’ve been in plays where the presence of time sits around you so heavily and it does make you rush.
Secondly, I felt as if the Mitchell character was a bit redundant. Again, there was so much content to the show, we had the Sam/Joe storyline, we learned about Becky and Sophie (Beau Brett), we had the story of how they all met each other, and we had the father. I understand why Mitchell’s was a necessary tale- sexual ambiguity and not wanting to label yourself is a huge part of queerness- but his story felt like an afterthought amongst the others.
Ultimately, my critique comes down to the issue of refinement. The play has good bones, potentially great even, it has a good story, and good actors but it needs to be scaled back. Fringe Theatre is really unforgiving to excess. It requires a perfect balance and to achieve that perfect balance you have to be so self-critical of the work, every minute counts.
I love where Fruity Nails is heading, it’s clear this young company has ambition, and the fault of the performance isn’t because there is a lack of talent but a lack of editing. Which is something that comes with time and trial and doing it again and again. So I’m really looking forward to what is next.
Recommended Drink: I think Nail Polish is best paired with a glass of fizz, because it reminds me of New Year’s Eve (and New Year’s Day when I’m throwing it all up).
Performances of Nail Polish have now concluded, however, you can keep up with Fruity Theatre on social media, to see what they do next.