Bob Stourton has an orchard. This orchard makes cider, specifically Hambledon Gold Single Varietal Cider, a famed brew from South West England. Bob dies and suddenly his children, Molly and Tim, are thrust into the care of the smallholding, and conflicts grow over its handling. Unfortunately what follows is an utterly joyless 45 minutes.
Even Jack English’s accordion playing can’t mitigate the plot
They’re not sure whether to sell off the orchard to Tamara Cavalier, the CEO of Euro-Artisan Ciders, for a healthy price because the cost is disrespecting the wishes of their late father. While negotiations happen and deals crystallise, they wassail - an ancient custom of reciting verses and singing to the mother tree of an orchard before a season - along with their boozer companion and Bob’s oldest friend, Knocker.
A variety of themes - tradition and globalisation, familial strife and ownership, and even death - are on offer. Yet all are treated so gracelessly and so tediously that the shallow approach wears thin in just five minutes, making the rest an appalling spectacle to behold. Even Jack English’s accordion playing can’t mitigate the plot. The wassailing, a fervent call to spirits, ranks as one of the worst moments in play. This should make clear what this production is like. Every point of wit, every display of character is stamped out by clunky dialogue and clunkier delivery.
Aside from the ruddy Toby Greenfield (as Knocker), everyone is infuriatingly tiresome and purposeless, shuffling to the side of an already claustrophobic space when their scenes end. Their idling when out of character is more authentic than anything they’ve been trained to do.
Unfortunately awful and just like cider, I don’t much care for Single Varietal. It’s an effortless production and I don’t mean that as a good thing. The team behind it need to work a lot harder if they want to survive in the cut and thrust of the Fringe.