[star rating = 4/5]
FOLLOWING a sell out run in Brighton last year, Red Biscuit Theatre have brought their show The Very Well-Fed Caterpillar to Edinburgh for their debut appearance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Stripped back to the bare essentials, it’s physical theatre at its simplest and most absurd.
Loosely based on the classic children’s book, the show is about a sad and lonely caterpillar, who develops such a large appetite that eventually he becomes too large to turn into a butterfly. As the king of Cape Caterpillar, he is feared and despised by his starving subjects for his callousness and greed, until one day he discovers a portal to a parallel kingdom. There he falls in love with their kind and generous butterfly ruler, and desperate to impress her he vows to change his ways for good.
The show features just the five performers all dressed in black with no staging, props, music or lighting. It’s unclear whether this is for effect or, as they joke at the start of the show, because they have no money. Whatever the reason, it works well, allowing the quality of the performance to speak for itself.
Though there’s not much development here story-wise, the script alongside the physical aspect of the show are what make it so appealing. It’s a laugh-a-minute, wacky performance, bursting with gags, fourth wall breaks, and references: the Gordon Ramsay scene was a particular crowd favourite.
The performers build the whole world with just their bodies, becoming not only characters but the set pieces too, such as portals, jetpacks, elevators complete with muzak, and a very pointless see-saw.
They switch between these roles at a relentless pace that’s exhausting to watch. Though the performance is only 45 minutes long, the heat of the room combined with the pace and physicality of the performance has the whole group visibly sweating by the end.
Although The Very Well-Fed Caterpillar isn’t the most serious piece of theatre out there, it’s still a lot of fun. It’s weird and wacky and wonderful, and reminds you that with enough energy, enthusiasm and talent, something as basic as this can be just as enjoyable as the biggest budget productions.