The F-Word’s second set of reviews from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe covering comedy and theatre
Many will know Maddie Rice as the actor who brilliantly stepped into the theatrical production of Fleabag following originator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and she absolutely shines in this, her writing debut as well. Pickle Jar is a lesson in masterful storytelling, interweaving plot points and circling back to the same place, but with each time the circle widening as the audience slowly learns the full story.
Rice plays a teacher who has recently had a less than stellar breakup and has been encouraged by her Irish best friend, housemate and fellow teacher to bounce back by getting out more. Involving favourite students, multiple crushes and a tree, Rice lures us in by making us believe she is going to tell a story of millennial problems and then takes us down a slowly darkening road to a heart-breaking conclusion.
This show is incredible; Rice plays multiple characters brilliantly and brings genuine warmth and comedy to bring us a character that seems very, very real. The emotional impact of Pickle Jar doesn’t hit me until I’m walking out, and leads to my friend and I needing a two hour coffee break to digest it.
Mixing verse, dialogue and movement, this clever show uses a night out and the true story of the black women turned away from a club for “being too black” to show the realities of misogynoir that black women face every day. Based on the Dstrkt night spot incident of 2015, this powerhouse of a show leaves my group in tears and makes a massive impression on us all.
Using verse to dive into the microaggressions, self-doubt and constant tiredness that being forced to ‘be strong’ and grow up too fast has on black women, Queens of Sheba looks at how this phenomenon affects everything from their work and love lives, to their fashion choices and their relationship with black men and music. A fantastical theatrical breakdown about how the myth of the black woman as a constant hero is an exhausting role to be forced into.
As well as being an amazing take down of misogynoir, it is also a beautiful portrayal of female friendship and sisterhood. From the start, where one woman is cheered up and convinced to come out (all done non-verbally), to the fun of getting ready and being silly, and the solidarity of facing heart-breaking rejection and reaffirming themselves and each other, female friendship is the light that shines throughout this whole play. I cannot emphasise enough how brilliantly the cast portray the joys and lows of their lives and night out with both their voices and physicality, and recommend this show to everyone.
Egg, the sketch duo made up of Anna Leong-Brophy and Emily Lloyd-Saini, know what you’re thinking: “Another comedy sketch group of mixed race women! Where are the white men!” Starting with a very funny takedown of how white and male comedy is, to the less serious issue of needing the loo, this sketch show vacillates between clever tongue-in-cheek expositions of the patriarchy to toilet humour.
From “identical” twin psychics fighting over their spirit, to needing to banish that same spirit after their relationship becomes too toxic, to using David Attenborough to crack a murder case, this show is very clever. But skits based in the toilet and the interspersed series of “shit jobs Anna and Emily have done” break up the seriousness, though do give a slight randomness to the overall show which could be tighter.
When we leave the show my male companion turns to me and says he hadn’t realised how unrelenting the patriarchy was to women, and it inspires a whole conversation about how to be a good ally, which is high praise indeed!
Laura Lexx is trying. She’s trying so hard, in fact, that it’s got to the stage where people are telling her to stop – but how do you avoid falling into a seemingly inevitable paradox?
Where other comedians incorporate dark subjects with a slightly awkward glaze, Lexx tackles the subjects head on, acknowledging their uncomfortable nature – but also how integral they are to both herself and her humorous anecdotes. As she treks through infertility depression (the first time I’ve heard it mentioned on the stage), debunks some of the myths of antidepressants, and illustrates an anxiety spiral that I can practically feel unfolding in front of me, I can’t help but be in awe. As she says: “Statistically one in three of you in the audience will be on antidepressants” – it’s a necessary first step in the conversation.
It would do Lexx a disservice to suggest this is her only material, and there’s some pleasant diversions into Lush shops, a family trip to France and a story about tropical fish which has me almost crying with laughter. As with life, however, the dark side of the good times underlies it all – and that’s just as important to acknowledge. Nevertheless, with a surprisingly uplifting ending and good doses of humour, Lexx approaches a difficult topic with integrity without looking like, well, she’s trying too hard.
I have barely sat down in the venue and I have already been initiated into the “Inner sanctum of the Cliterati”, open to all: men, women and “those who have evolved beyond the gender binary”. So begins Glittery Clittery, a fierce, furious and unapologetic feminist cabaret.
It’s a forward-thinking show for 2018: there’s a strong emphasis on consent, a light-hearted hoedown about pockets and mention of the perennial “feminist fuckboy”. One girl-group anthem, a riff on boys hurting girls “because they like you”, raises the roof. And it’s surprisingly educational, too. I don’t know what I expected when I woke up in the morning, but a dancing plush vulva (yes, vulva, not vagina) was not part of it. It’s suitably angry but doesn’t take itself too seriously, as said vulva may have indicated.
The three women command the stage with an easy grace and skill, with both fantastic costumes and incredible talent – the harmonies send shivers down my spine. If there were one comment, it would be that it could, but doesn’t quite, reach the heights of 21st century inclusivity promised at the start: there are nods to LGBT+ intersectionality, but these issues are never quite confronted head-on. However, for an all-out, fabulous display of well-choreographed feminist anger, Glittery Clittery promises, and provides, a show unlike any other.
The feature image is of Egg. It shows the two performers sitting at a breakfast table in front of a yellow wall. The performer on the left is slumped forward. The performer on the right is sitting upright and giving a thumbs up to the camera while drinking orange juice out of a clear mug. A full cooked breakfast can just be seen in front of both of them.
Image two is of Pickle Jar and shows a woman in a neat cardigan sitting on a white desk. Coloured A4 paper flies around her head. On the desk next to her are textbooks and pens. She looks straight at the camera with a slight smile.
Image three is of Queens of Sheba. It shows four women dancing in front of a dark grey background. The women wear black clothes and coloured head scarves.
Image four shows Laura Lexx. She has what looks like a pregnancy test stick in her mouth and holds both her hands up with crossed fingers. She is looking upwards and has dark hair swept across her forehead.
Image five is of Fringe Wives Club by James Penlidis. It shows the three performers wearing outlandish silver and pink outfits with harem pant style trousers and bra tops. They stand or squat in front of a grey background.