The King’s Arms
The Olive Tree
Written and Performed by Jessica Forrest
The first of tonight’s double bill from Sugar Butties is The Olive Tree, a one woman show that explores how the loss of loved ones impacts how we value the pivotal moments in life whether big and small. Jessica Forrest takes us straight to Umbria in Italy…el centro del mundo…as she goes straight to the heart of her story of loss and solace. Forrest does bittersweet poignancy and wry humour extremely well. She has a flair for observational comedy and mimicry that makes for great storytelling. She regularly breaks the fourth wall to interact with the audience as she shares fragments of her life and invites us to note a fragment from our own lives on tags to hang on the olive tree. This is done with care and sensitivity; and nothing personal is shared openly during the show.
Forrest paints vivid images of her time in London as a nanny. They veer from the quiet pleasure and anguish of nursing your employer’s sleeping baby while trying to come to terms with an abortion to a wickedly funny parody of a Manhattan socialite describing giving birth. The frustration of a fleeting and unsuccessful sexual escapade with a devout Christian is vividly brought to life…I’m laid by a raging erection protected by St Peter and his fucking pearly gates! Her emotional escape to Italy brings new experiences such as when her friend Hillary makes mischief on what turns out to be a gynaecology appointment at an Italian Co Op. The poetry in the storytelling can be earthy and humorous but also incredibly delicate as she tenderly describes Hillary as a friend who tied purple ribbons around everything in life. The pain of living with grief is perfectly evoked by the thought of wearing another’s hat purchased from a charity shop…perhaps in donning a strangers’ hat we might temporarily have reprieve from our own memories. Forrest closes this accomplished first show by inviting her audience to sprinkle a little glitter on ourselves; perhaps a little of her creative magic dust will have been added to the mix.
Written and Performed by Olivia Nicholson
HYENAS! is already a 2021 recipient of a Pick Of The Fringe Award at Edinburgh. This one woman show by Olivia Nicholson takes the audience on the hen do from hell in Marbella complete with a Mr and Mrs questionnaire that involves our participation, multiple trashy costume changes and a very unhappy bride. Nicholson a powerhouse performance while performing a range of characters at breakneck speed. Kirsty is the skinny and miserable bride obsessed with Instagram, Lauren is a cackling firecracker oozing backhanded compliments while inhaling cocktails, Sarah is a socially awkward wallflower while posh Tasha is a sexually voracious, emotional vampire.
There is nothing on surface level that is remotely likable about any of these women yet Nicholson manages to give each of them their humanity and a sense of their vulnerability. The bride may be desperately embarking on marriage to a coercive, abusive partner in an attempt to create a family having recently lost her mother. Sarah is a high school teacher on sick leave having just had a dangerously inappropriate meltdown in the classroom, Lauren is a loving mum who is hiding the heartbreak of a broken marriage and Tasha has just lost her best friend to cancer. Each woman is real onstage despite the comic caricatures, they all cover their pain with more than just thick layers of MAC. There is real skill in the writing and the performance as HYENAS! is a whirlwind comic assault that delivers a hefty emotional punch.