by Christy Doran
“You get a bunch of vegetables together and it’s some kind of green conspiracy,” says Luke Escombe, creator of The Vegetable Plot, a musical inspired by vegetables at The Annex at the Sydney Fringe Festival.
Motivated by the idea of making vegetables a “fun and exciting” experience, Luke, 36, the lead-singer and guitarist, plays the character of a vegetable Aspara Gus. He was joined in the production by members of Sydney girl-band, All Our Exes Live in Texas, with each one of the four vocalists playing other vegetable inspired characters such as Sue Kini, Collie Flower, Ru Barb and Rockit lettuce.
Backing the vocalists and providing the “roots, grooves and blues” in the performance were bassist Rutabaga, guitarist Purple Haze, drummer Mr Beet, keyboardist Tom Ato, saxophonist Blowbergine and dancer Tina Turnip. Collectively, the Vegetable Plot put on a colourful performance and kept the audience, made up largely of toddlers and their parents, entertained with witty vegetable puns and dance moves like ‘throw ya root down’.
Lionel Cole, a finalist on last season’s edition of The Voice and nephew of American singer Nat King Cole, made a guest appearance, playing Butternut Squash.
“Luke asked if I could come on the show as a guest and perform a song. I’ve known him for some time now and I know how talented he is so I said, yes,” he said. “Hopefully the show gets picked up. It’s a great message. We all say you should eat so many vegetables a day, but it’s one thing saying it, another doing it,” he said.
Indeed it is, with reports from Gofor2&5, a national campaign for healthy living supported by government health departments, citing that Australians on average eat just half the recommended daily intake of two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables.
But overcoming this trend and becoming a model of health is the driving force behind Luke’s creative plot. Since overcoming Crohn’s Disease a few years ago followed by the birth of his first child last year, Luke has made it his goal to become a health advocate, but not in the usual theoretical way.
“I’m hoping that making kids curious and excited about vegetables is a better strategy than telling them what’s best for their health,” he said. “The show doesn’t really emphasise the importance of healthy eating, at least not overtly; studies suggest that that kind of thing can be counterproductive. It’s more about linking vegetables with the idea of having fun.”
And judging by the rousing reception given at the end of the performance to the cast of The Vegetable Plot, it would seem that the seed has been planted.
While The Vegetable Plot has just sprouted, this crop of performers has already attracted attention beyond the Fringe. “We’ve already got some other gigs lined up. I’m excited that this isn’t just going to be it,” Luke said.
Luke said the education system would be a market to explore further. “I’d love to be able to play in schools, to play live music and original songs because I don’t think kids are exposed to that enough.
“I’d like to do more performances that unite us as a community. Kids eating healthy is something that we can all agree that we want to see happening.”