Set in Kneehigh’s wild, wonderful fairytale version of Cornwall with just six performers, Simon Harvey’s adaptation of Jim Dodge’s novel FUP is a real delight. Chloe Walton reviews:

The tale of centenarian Grandaddy Jake (Dave Mynn), kept young by consuming his potent whisky called O’Death Whisper, and his towering grandson Tiny (Calvin A. Dean) takes you from the hilarious to the profound. Their story is expertly navigated by Kneehigh’s incredibly talented cast and the clever use of puppetry, music, and direction. The artists here are musicians too – they expertly swap between double basses, banjos, pan pipes and others. Ben Sutcliffe’s score beautifully complements the action on stage, highlighting the comedic moments of Jim Dodge‘s Fup and bringing time for reflection in its more poignant scenes.

Mynn wins the audience over as the lovable scoundrel who beats the odds to win custody of his grandson from Rachael Leonard’s truly unlikable social worker. On the surface, a 100-year-old homebrew addicted man is not what you would deem as  ‘typically’ suitable to look after a child. However, Mynn’s charm and perseverance pays off in the first act and the energy that he puts into the overall performance is impressive. But it is the puppets who really hold the audience captivated. It’s hard not to fall in love with Fup the duck, a lovable animal who’s not to be messed with – Leonard steals the stage with her beautiful puppetry skills. Then comes Tiny the almost-silent puppet boy, who can transfix a room with simple movements.

Calvin A. Dean in FUP by Kneehigh

Calvin A. Dean (image courtesy of Rosanna Vize)

Kneehigh has clearly put a lot of love and consideration into this modern day fairytale. Given the recent ramp up in conversations in the media about the importance of mental health and being open with your feelings, Fup feels very current. Tiny feels completely unable to express himself, choosing to build physical fences instead to keep safe and shut out the outside world.

Fup‘s message is to break free from limitations, and in this it well and truly succeeds. Be moved, be entertained. Make sure to catch Fup before she flies back to her Cornish home.

★★★★☆

FUP is on tour at the Warwick Arts Centre until Saturday 6 October, from 9-13 October at the Liverpool Everyman and from 16-20 October at the Nuffield Southampton.