Pickled Republic

Oct 16 2023 | By More

★★★★★    Unique

Assembly Roxy: Fri 13 – Sat 14 Oct 2023
Review by Allan Wilson

In Pickled Republic, Ruxy Cantir has drawn on her Moldovan upbringing, where almost every vegetable can be pickled, and combined it with her exposure to American education and culture to create a totally unique, absurdist play that can be enjoyed on many different levels.

Cantir’s use of clowning, puppetry, masks and dance are brought together to create a sort of pickled vegetable cabaret, which provides a hilarious overview of the pickling process and provokes thoughts on existence and the purpose of life.

The performer sits at a table holding a large prop carrot. Around her are the costumes for other pickled vegetables.

Ruxy Cantir in Pickled Republic. Pic: Andy Catlin.

Cantir has created a tasty collection of vegetable characters, including the last pickled tomato in a jar who longs to serve her purpose in life by being eaten and a potato-headed lounge crooner, who seductively combines some of the most outrageously funny potato puns in her song.

A nervous onion in an Aran sweater attempts a spoken word performance by desperately throwing out individual lines in the hope that something will get a laugh, or at least an appreciative nod. A mother nurses a baby carrot, proudly showing him off to members of the audience. A gherkin reveals her dancing skills ranging from disco to striptease.

always funny

These, and other creations, are always funny. But there is also an underlying sadness and unease as pickling turns to rot and putrefaction.

Visual designer Fergus Dunnet and director Shona Reppe have brought their skills to help Cantir create an amazing array of costumes that have become the most striking element of the production; their impact is enhanced by Alberto Santos Bellido’s lighting and its great use of contrasting light and darkness.

Ruxy Cantir wears a big white Arran jumper, pulled up over her head. A big white onion, spitting rhymes into an old fashioned microphone.

Ruxy Cantir in Pickled Republic. Pic: Andy Catlin.

John Kielty also plays an important role as composer, lyricist and sound designer. He has not only written some deliciously funny songs and music to support the action, but also combines spoken text about the pickling process with music during the transitions between vegetables.

The whole show is a credit to producers Scissor Kick and the production team headed up Nicola Lawton, with stage manager Geraldine Heaney.

It is particularly important to recognise the massive contribution of BSL interpreter Yvonne Strain to this performance. At one time, on those rare occasions where a play had a BSL interpreter, they would stand in a corner, totally ignoring the action on the rest of the stage as they interpreted the dialogue.

new level

Recently, there has been a welcome trend to involving the interpreter, possibly as a minor, non-speaking character, integrated into the action.

Strain takes this involvement to a new level, obviously listening and reacting to everything Cantir says, lip-syncing and performing on stage as Cantir wordlessly sings from behind a screen during a costume change, making adjustments to the set and literally supporting Cantir as she struggles to get out of a tomato costume.

The performer, Ruxy Cantor, sits on a green table, legs akimbo, dressed as a tomato.

Ruxy Cantir in Pickled Republic. Pic: Andy Catlin.

Pickled Republic is a hugely entertaining production, providing lots of laughs and provoking thoughts; not only on the pickling of vegetables but also, more deeply, on the purpose of life and reaction to tragedy.

Running time: 55 minutes (No interval)
Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU
Fri 13/Sat 14 October 2023
Evening: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Pickled Republic continuing tour

Perth Theatre (Joan Knight Studio), Mill Street, Perth PH1 5HZ
Wed 18 October 2023.
Evening: 8pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Dunoon Burgh Hall, 195 Argyll St, Dunoon PA23 7DD
21st October 2023:
Evening: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Reconnect Regal Theatre, 24 – 34 North Bridge St, Bathgate EH48 4PS
24th October 2023:
Evening: 7pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Eskdalemuir Community Hub, the School, Eskdalemuir, Langholm DG13 0QJ
BSL interpreted performance
26th October 2023:
Evening: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Strathearn Arts, 6 Comrie Street, Crieff PH7 4AX
28th October 2023:
Evening: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Ruxy Cantir, holds a pair of (real) tomatoes over a table which has a tablecloth decorated like the top of a traditional Moldovan pickle jar

Ruxy Cantir in Pickled Republic. Pic: Andy Catlin.


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