Ruth Pickett: An Endless Series of Distractions

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

The main character Ruth Pickett plays in her Fringe debut is a delicate, detached and dreamy spinster who runs an unsuccessful charity show with only her obsessive-compulsive cat Bobbins for company.

The stage is thus littered with the store's useless stock, a haphazard collection of ephemeral trinkets out of their time: polkadot teapots, plastic cactuses, decorative sombreros, obscure albums with titles like Mrs Mills's Party ­ bizarre mementoes all of the minutiae of life.

It's an apt setting, because An Endless Series Of Distractions, named after Pickett's ida of what life is, is comedy bric-a-brac too: a ramshackle collection of all sorts of random items - quirky, unusual, and appealing to a very specific taste.

Many people will very possibly be left cold by this faux-innocent brand of wide-eyed whimsy, but if it's distinctive, ethereal comedy you're after, Pickett delivers. For this is a charmingly sweet hour, enchanting, endearing ­ and frequently laugh-out-loud funny.

The junk shop, Past Caring, is at the centre of a small, isolated world where everything is interconnected, like a more benign Royston Vasey. In it live such oddballs as Alan, the voyeuristic, lonely, awkward misfit with an unrequited crush on store manager Jennifer; bearded folk singer Tommy Leghorn, Lionel Richie-obsessed supermarket lurker Don Swisher, and Mrs Bunn, whose 'entertainment extravaganza' comprises a series of poor-quality animal impressions.

We meet them all over the course of a week, during which Pickett's Jennifer relates various surreal anecdotes, beautifully sings graceful tributes to Hoovers and fictional corporate cleaning-product mascots and paints a rich picture of this well-imagined world.

Peppering this are some very good jokes, and some truly bad ones ­ proving something of a letdown given the skill with which the show as a whole is constructed ­ plus a rather unfortunate scatological seam of humour which is thankfully more juvenile than sick.

But this is a show that's more than the sum of its part, thanks to the rich, unique atmosphere Pickett creates in which to showcase her impressive performing talents.

Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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