Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019: part eight

Shit (Theatre)
Until 25 August, 16:50, Summerhall
Reviewed by Olivia Phipps

It’s always great to see completely unrestrained and unafraid women do their thing on stage. The characters of Billy, Bobby and Sam (gender neutral names noted) in Patricia Cornelius’ play are unapologetic as they strut and swagger about the stage, swearing and shouting. Of course, there’s more to their boldness than meets the eye, and we soon learn that broken homes, prison and the care system have shaped their lives growing up.

This is necessary theatre; it’s not for the faint-hearted, but it’s a powerful and, at times, a brutal dissection of the misogyny within the class struggle. Quick and deeply cutting back-and-forths can be uncomfortable to watch, and there are moments where emotion is harshly cut down as a purely ‘female’ experience. The performances are captivating, the characters appearing childlike in their blanket use of violence and terror to shape every handling of a situation. Peta Brady, Sarah Ward and Nicci Wilks are all very engaging and committed performers, instilling the right amount of fear and discomfort in the audience through their characterisations. We see a small amount of vulnerability, though not much.

At times, the play feels a little disjointed and the reasons for the characters being in their situation are unexplained, but the characters are strong and the language stronger.

Josie Long: Tender (Comedy)
Until 25 August, 20:20, The Stand Comedy Club
Reviewed by Olivia Phipps

Josie Long’s latest hour-long show – it’s been a few years since the last one – focuses on motherhood, hope and the future. Since becoming a mum just over a year ago, Long has been processing the experience, which she shares here in a very human and honest way. For her, labour wasn’t the desperate, horrific saga that many had knowingly told her it would be, despite hers lasting 50 hours. There were times during the birth when her and her partner felt really truly connected and deeply in love, and her baby reminds her that there are people out there who are as yet uninfected by the tedium of social media and the world’s news. It’s beautiful stuff.

She throws away the idea that “female comics only talk about children and women’s things”, which is a breath of fresh air, frankly. Yes, there are obvious tropes – understandably, she’s very, very tired – but they never feel obvious through her unique and quite wonderful comical lens.

It’s a warm and incredibly funny hour of standup from a masterful storyteller, who admits she still feels quite raw from the whole experience. It’s true she does feel like a different performer now, and it’s quite delightful and nourishing to share such an evidently momentous time in her life as an audience member.

Lobster (Theatre)
Until 26 August, 12:00, Underbelly, Bristo Square
Reviewed by Olivia Phipps

Written and performed by Gemma Harvey, this play takes a sharp and uncomfortably realistic look at the world of online dating. It may not be the most original topic for discussion, but this performance definitely presents you with the often-painful reality of swiping for romance.

Harvey’s character, Polly, visits the online dating world after a bad breakup with her ex, Josh, leading to a number of odd dates with oddballs, sexual encounters, and unsolicited dick pics. Her performance is unnervingly true-to-life to the naive, vulnerable types that often end up on dating sites (at least in my experience), unsure of how or why they got there, especially after previous heartbreak. Somehow, though, I wish there had been a little more empowerment for her character by the end, and more discovery of whether it is actually good for someone coming out of a relationship to be online dating at all.

Whether you have experience in the world of online dating or not, this show will help you understand the true ups and downs, no holds barred. One of the most important flags it raises is the concept of ‘stealthing’, where a man says he is wearing a condom during sex but isn’t or removes it before the climax. It covers the topic well and in depth, but I wish the graduation of thought for the main character had been pushed a little bit further.

The message of exploration both externally and internally, and the conclusion that we never really lose our way, only detour, really resonates with me

Pink Lemonade (Theatre)
Finishes 25 August, 15:45, Assembly Roxy
Reviewed by Emily Zinkin

Mika Johnson’s power-house performance uses a mixture of spoken word, movement and vox pops to explore their identity as a person of colour who is attracted to women and is moving through a world that has a lot of baggage with both of those things. It is also a love story, first with Simmi, the woman Johnson can’t get out of their head, but also with themselves.

Pink Lemonade takes us on their journey, through a conversation with their mother about how they were uncomfortable having feminine clothes early on, through various bad jobs and bad relationships. Johnson’s words are visceral, quickly swaying between ethereal and beautiful to dirty and grounded, and are immediately enchanting, bringing you straight into their world.

From their lover Toni’s racial fetishisation of Johnson, to Simmi’s refusal to say she’s attracted to women, to the barber shop that becomes a threatening space as soon as Johnson says they like women, Johnson makes it clear that they are living their life but identity politics are not something that can separated from everything else. The humour and the poignancy bring each other out more sharply and the anger is well served, but ultimately it is the audience’s privilege to go on this journey with Johnson.

Detour: A Show About Changing Your Mind (Theatre)
Until 26 August, 14:35, Underbelly, Bristo Square
Reviewed by Emily Zinkin

Diana Dinerman was on the verge of completing her PhD when she suddenly realised she did not want to be an academic. This was a problem, as she wasn’t entirely sure what she did want to be, going into academia had already been her first career pivot, and it’s hard to explain why you’re throwing years of work away for the second time on an unclear dream.

Detour follows Dinerman’s journey to connect back with her body and her inner voice, and find the path she feels she has gone off. Through meditation, other culture’s spiritual practices (which skirted close to but never came off as overt or deliberate appropriation to me), relationships and self-realisation, Dinerman takes the audience on a roundabout road-trip to find herself and her identity.

The message of exploration both externally and internally, and the conclusion that we never really lose our way, only detour, really resonates with me. Dinerman’s anger and exploration of how she has created many of her own barriers is refreshing and honest, and Detour is a show I believe everyone would benefit from seeing.

A Brief History of the Fragile Male Ego (Theatre)
Until 26 August, 16:00, Pleasance Dome
Reviewed by Emily Zinkin

Andrea is a nervous presenter with a controversial lecture to give on the importance of preserving the male ego in all its fragility. Despite an unsure start where I couldn’t tell if the character of Andrea was being deliberately nervous or whether the performer really was terrified (it was the former) , this solo show by Jordan & Skinner soon takes the audience on a riotous tour of famous men throughout history, before finishing the audience off with a poignant gut punch of emotion at the end.

Including Poseidon, Julius Caesar and José Mourinho in a recent interview, the repercussions of men being told “no” rattle down throughout history, as demonstrated by the character of Andrea. Women’s ego’s, we are told, are like sponges – if you poke it then it will immediately recover as women have been trained to take it, whereas men’s egos are like balloons, and one prick can pop it entirely. These skits are a hilarious way of demonstrating how toxic masculinity fails to set some men up for dealing with failure.

The ending takes a darker turn, with the negative effects of toxic masculinity on both men and women played out with a surprising amount of pathos, through Andrea and her family and workplace. It was a well-executed hit of emotion which will continue to resonate with me.

Image 1, the feature image, is from Shit. It shows the three performers in an underpass. There is daylight at the far end of the underpass, and its lit from above by electric lights. Two of the performers are walking away from the camera, while the third looks to have turned back to look at us. They’re all wearing denim shorts and sleeveless tops. The feeling of the photo is threatening.

Image 2 is of Josie Long. She is standing in a cornfield with a baby strapped to her front. She wears a blue raincoat with the hood up. It looks hazy and sunny in the photograph and she’s looking up with a smile on her face.

Image 3 is a graphic of a lobster.

Image 4 is a publicity image of Pink Lemonade by Bronwen Sharp. It shows just the head part of the arms of performer Mika Johnson as they rest on a table top. They look fairly neutrally straight at the camera. They have dreadlocks and a lot of rings on their fingers. A lemon is under their chin and another balancing on their head. On the left of the image another person’s hand holds a lemon, while a hand on the right comes into the photo with some hair clippers. The background to the photo is pink.

Image 5 is from Detour: A Show About Changing Your Mind. It shows performer Diana Dinerman standing in front of a white board and looking out at an unseen audience as if she is baffled or upset. She is gesturing towards the whiteboard on which is written: “DETOUR” and then “2009 Minneapolis, 2011 LA, 2001 DC, LA NOW”.

Image 6 is from A Brief History of the Fragile Male Ego and shows the performer in a blue photographer’s studio. She has just let go of a white helium balloon which has the words “MALE EGO” written on it in black pen and she looks towards the camera with shock and worry. She wears a striped blouse and ‘sensible’ skirt.