Not to burst her balloon, but Sara Tilley’s Fruithead has left me scratching my head.

Created and produced by Tilley – a writer, actress, and clown, among other talents – the play boggled me as I left the theatre, wondering exactly what sufficiently strange performance I had just witnessed. The two-person, essentially one-woman show, assisted by her ostensibly invisible counterpart and co-creator Mark White, entertained the audience with clowning and crawling around in a suit filled with balloons and, as you may have guessed it, fruit on her head, a la Carmen Miranda.

The clowning humorously encompasses a surprisingly serious theme: the creation of earth and its creatures, its life cycle and, ultimately, death. Tilley’s gyrations, facial expressions, and lack of inhibitions inspired many giggles from the audience. Had the lights suddenly come up in the theatre, I’m sure there would have been a few rosy faces, blushing at the constant, sexually-charged, primitive motioning.

Violence, conscience and identity are also explored through this clown-creature’s development of human nature, giving the comedy a depth I did not expect upon entering the theater.

Fruithead runs July 17-21 at LSPU Hall in St. John's. Photo by Justin Brake.
Mark White and Sara Tilley co-created and star in Fruithead, which runs July 17-21 at LSPU Hall in St. John’s. Photo by Justin Brake.

With a simplistic set, stop-animation projections, and no actual dialogue aside from babbling primordial noises, Tilley articulates an entire story of life and death through actions, expressions, the tone of her nonsensical muttering, and the visually stimulating, abstract dream-sequence stop-animation.

The performance could have benefited from some dialogue or an occasional soliloquy to help audience members decipher what Fruithead was really thinking, or to differentiate between the many character forms she enacted; I spent a fair amount of the play surmising exactly what was going on (as I write this I’m honestly still not sure).

Tilley deserves credit though – the performance makes you uncomfortable, in the sense that so few people openly demonstrate so few inhibitions.

She is clearly having a ball on stage and you cannot help but feed off the energy she projects. If you prefer your theater with a little more substance or script Fruithead may not be your thing, but if you’re looking to see something different and have a laugh, or explore your own emotional response to the colourful and playful, yet at times vulgar, things Tilley’s character does (and says, sort of), there are still three performances left. Even if you don’t understand the deeper meaning of the abstract performance, you can’t not laugh at the sheer vulgarity and emotion Tilley exhibits on stage.

Fruithead runs until July 21, at 8 p.m. each evening, at LSPU Hall. Regular admission is $20, with a student and senior rate of $15; there will be a post-show discussion with Tilley and White following the July 20 performance. Tickets are available at the LSPU Hall box office, by calling 753-4531, and online at rca.nf.ca.