The Good Room @ Holden Street Theatres (The Arch)
7:00pm, Mon 9 Mar 2009
You know, I so very nearly didn’t see this show; the blurb – quirky as it was – didn’t reach out and grab me at all. But on my birthday, and with (as per Fringe tradition) bugger all else in that public-holiday Monday timeslot, I decided that I’d truck out to Holden Street regardless… hey, they’d been good to me the last couple of years. Spend the day with friends. A nice safe thing to do, I reckoned, especially since my selection of shows on my birthday usually tends to be pretty poor. Or maybe that’s just a subconscious self-loathing thing.
Anyway – I’m at The Arch. Seeing Holy Guacamole.
And, without much fanfare, out comes Eustace, a half-boy half-avocado hybrid, made up in fetching shades of green and brown. He’s very much the black sheep of the family, and treated as an outcast by his three sisters; his only real friend appears to be Camille, the “different” girl, who appears to be seeking spiritual fulfilment by flitting between religions (dalliances with Islam and a bout with Hare Krishna warranting costume changes). Eustace yearns to be elsewhere, but is embroiled in a struggle that thinly disguises issues of class and caste, of appearances and expectations. But despite those rather serious leanings, Holy Guacamole was bloody funny; I laughed my arse off, and even prematurely clapped before the grim ending, the twist in the tale.
The ending – an enchanting/haunting/funny/chilling climax that owes much to the Wives of Stepford – somehow leaves you utterly satisfied. And it’s only after I left The Arch that I became aware of the most stunning accomplishment of this production: it’s somehow managed to make you forget that the main character, this retrospectively ludicrous half-boy-half-guacamole creature, is weird. Somehow, The Good Room have managed to get the audience to see themselves as Eustace, with the “normal” characters being the weird ones. Evoking our own feelings and memories of loneliness, the guacamole boy is the stranger in the community; the smiling and conniving sisters are the evil in the community itself. And it’s wondrous and magic and utterly brilliant that they’ve managed to get you to feel that, and it’s a stunning example of the power of Fringe theatre.
The cast were uniformly excellent, with one of the “evil” sisters being a particular standout for her subtle considerations of Eustace’s predicament. The staging was perfunctory, but effective, with ample use made of the depth of the stage. And sure, I was half-cut when I entered the The Arch for this performance – hey, that gorgeous girl with the beautiful eyes behind the bar at Holden Street remembered that it was my birthday, and ensured I got value for money from my celebratory glasses of red. But this was, hands down, the most wonderfully produced, entertaining-yet-cerebral, perfect show of this Fringe. I even got to accost the cast with such opinions (and, generally, shower them with praise) when I happened to be drinking with the Holden Street crew after the last performance of Guacamole, which is one of those little things that make a Fringe memorable to me. Telling people their creation has made my life better… I love that.