This is a show about a wall coming down– the Berlin Wall – that opens its run at Summerhall against the backdrop of the agonising, bungled parliamentary negotiations around putting another, more metaphorical, wall up. A lot of the rhetoric around Brexit involved scaremongering about Eastern-European migrant workers. The East-West divide, reconstructed, if it was ever fully torn down. And now, people from former soviet countries are living in uncertainty about their long term status in the UK – people like Katherina Radeva, who grew up in Bulgaria, and who has written and performed a show that splices her memories of the Berlin Wall with her present day fears, with her memories of living under communism.
Fallen Fruit has rich, rich ground to explore. Radeva’s performance is ripe with vivid images from her childhood, presented clearly and without nostalgia. As a six year old, she’s left alone in her family’s two room flat, accompanied by a mischief-making dog, as her student parents attend classes. There’s a single phone for the entire block of over 200 apartments. And it turns out the innocent mishaps that follow (involving a sozzled pooch sneaking her parents’ beer) are nothing to the devastation that follows the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of Bulgaria’s communist economic system. A meticulously planned and structured society torn down, overnight.
This sense of collapse, of tearing down, is mirrored in Radeva and director Alastair Lownie’s performance language. A wall of tiny square cardboard boxes rings the stage. Two of them come to represent a lesbian couple who part ways – one stays in Bulgaria, the other uses her new-found freedom to escape the pressure of living in secrecy and to travel the world. Many more of the boxes become the prizes in the gameshow the couple watch together: Radeva puts on a flamboyant red jacket to perform a cheesy intro dance that’s full of wonderful, knowing cheekiness, before posing the audience questions about how they really want to live. In communist repression? In a capitalist free-for-all? In order, or in rubble?
Also made with Alister Lownie, Two Destination Language’s previous work Near Gone was all about overwhelming visual imagery, a bed of crushed white carnations becoming a metaphor for a child’s life destroyed by a dysfunctional country. Somehow, the imagery of Fallen Fruit is less successful. These carefully ordered boxes don’t have the flexibility to become human, to embody apartment blocks and walls and destruction.
The play’s structure feels a little uncertain, too. Instead of gathering force and building, it cycles through narratives that don’t always meet each other, and play. What holds this performance together is Radeva: the common thread is her childhood memories, the uniqueness of the stories gleaned from conversations with her parents and friends. Perhaps what would give its slightly inconclusive ending more heft is a tighter focus on the experiences of EU migrants, now.
Fallen Fruit is on at Summerhall until 26th August. Book tickets here.