Jim Dodge’s comic novel Fup is beautifully transposed to Kneehigh’s home territory of Cornwall in this touring production.
Grandaddy Jake has achieved his centenary through drinking vast amounts of his own whisky, Ol’ Death Whisper. The still is summoned at the touch of a button. One swig is enough to rock the universe.
He’s an anarchic individual, setting fire to the telegram from the Queen, and riling the smart-suited social workers who don’t think he’s a fit guardian for his orphaned grandson, Tiny – a puppet so winsome it can still the house with a single movement of the head.
The fable swings from hilarity one minute to profundity the next – it’s really a story of how not to deal with loss.
The shifts in tone and manipulation of emotions in Simon Harvey’s production are enhanced by Ben Sutcliffe’s original score. The live music is so wholly woven into the dialogue and the action that it comes to feel like a continuous commentary. Ballads, blues, country music and percussion all combine. At one point, Sutcliffe, a virtuoso violinist, is simultaneously playing fiddle and Pan pipes.
The story is brought to life by just six performers, including the two musicians. There’s an uproarious performance from Dave Mynne as Grandaddy, a man entirely without social graces.
Calvin A Dean is the stolid and buttoned-up older Tiny, building higher and stronger fences around the shack to keep the world away. But – all credit to the puppeteer, Rachel Leonard – it’s the eponymous Fup, a duck with attitude, who steals a show characterised by its wicked eccentricity.