The Goddess of Walnuts

Sat 3rd – Sun 18th August 2013


Patty McCabe

at 10:14 on 9th Aug 2013



The Catherine’s Club’s ‘The Goddess of Walnuts’ tells the story of aged actress Vivien Frey sitting in her dressing room, accompanied by her ‘bathrobe gin’, her ‘bathrobe cigarette’, and her incredibly patient assistant, Vicky Frost. This quirky comedy, written by Tim Foley (‘Scene of the Titans’ and ‘Meat’), has more layers than the walnut that somewhat bizarrely found itself at the centre of the narrative.

Staged in Paradise in The Vault, the underground setting was perfect as the backstage dressing room in which Vivien (Cara Mahoney) conducts her nightly ritual, much to the irritation of her assistant, Vicky Frost (Emma Taylor). The simplicity of the setting meant that a lot rested on the shoulders of the cast of two whom, minus an Egyptian urn, a glass of gin, and a dress, carried the narrative entirely. The audience appears to play the part of the mirror in the production and it is a metaphor that is sustained throughout; both cast members have the same costumes, Vicky constantly mimics Vivien’s line, and there are parallels in language that run throughout the play.

Cara Mahoney’s Vivien Frey was delicate and sufficiently irritating, reminiscent of a comic Blanche Dubois from a ‘Streetcar named Desire’. She has a similar relationship with alcohol (although is a little more honest about the amount she drinks), a dislike of the light and being watched, as well as the fragility of character that evokes both irritation and sympathy from the audience. Mahoney’s characterisation was convincing, using nervous ticks such as constantly playing with her hands and gazing into the mirror with a far-off look that suggested depth to a character who, on the surface, seemed little more than a self-indulgent thespian coming to terms with the fact that she had past her prime. Vicky Frost (Emma Taylor) dealt with Vivien’s antics like a tired parent deals with a spoilt child. She was the perfect balance to Frey, offering down-to-earth humour that kept the audience entertained.

‘The Goddess of Walnuts’ is charming little gem amidst this year’s Fringe Festival and there are definitely worse ways to spend half an hour. Tim Foley’s script is both incredibly complex and naturally funny, playing on the nature of performance and the relationships between those that act, and those that manage to get them on stage, even if it means dangling gin on a stick in front of them.


Helena Blackstone

at 10:58 on 9th Aug 2013



‘The Goddess of Walnuts’ is a polished performance with an impressive script from recent graduate, Tim Foley. The set is sparse but well thought out, and very suggestive. The space is perfect for the scene; the characters are in a dressing room preparing for a stage performance and we are looking in through an imagined mirror. Vivien Frost, dippy but full of wry wit is a part that is done justice by Cara Mahoney. Opposite her is Emma Taylor playing Vicky Frey. Cara’s age is no barrier to her playing the part of an older woman as her body language is perfectly fragile and she convincingly captures the far-away look of her character, who by the end of the production has unravelled from glamorous star to elderly woman with acute dementia. Emma Taylor also does well to portray someone much older and more physically solid than herself. Both actors have realised their characters beautifully.

Similarly named, similarly dressed, only after watching did I learn that these actors swap roles on different nights. I cannot possibly imagine this, considering how fully realised and quite opposite their characters are. Dreamy, ungrounded Vivien Frey could hardly have been replaced by anything resembling the concrete, matronly Vicky Frost. If their roles in reverse are as fully realised as they were when I saw them, then I would include a whole new level of praise for their acting acrobatics.

What I would criticise is that the back and forth between the two of them is a little same-y. Vicky treats Vivien badly, imitating her and dismissing her as nothing but a nut (and here is the title’s pun). While this is a source of much humour, without enough variation in tone and emotion her endless patronising and straining to contain her frustration at Vivien’s mental frailty can become a little trying for the audience. Overall, this production was of a very high standard, and I would be excited to see much more from a truly promising writer and cast.


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