Having first heard Sofie Hagen on The Guilty Feminist podcast a few years ago, I am delighted to stumble across her beautifully advertised Edinburgh Festival Fringe show, The Bumswing. Some might say it was fate, but I’d put it down to the inescapable pink flamingo print of her posters following me everywhere I go and imprinting their vivid feathers upon my mind!
Hagen’s show is as bright and bold as her advertisements suggest it will be. She tells us devastating truth after devastating truth and takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride through some of the key highs and lows experienced in her life. She has strived this year to create a “happy” show and has certainly achieved just that. Speaking on feminist issues she both manages to recognise all of womenkind, while remaining true to herself and refusing to shy away from the perhaps not so typically feminist actions of her past.
Hagen remains effortlessly funny throughout, eliciting laughs, understanding chuckles and murmurs of agreement exactly when you would expect. If I were to describe this show in five words, hinting at all that it has to offer the viewer, I would choose honest, thought-provoking and subtly relatable.
I have never seen a performance before where one actor plays the part of the other actor’s vagina, and if the opportunity ever arises for me to see a play like this again, I will jump at it. Written by Ella Langley and performed by Christelle Elwin and Lottie Amor, Have I Told You I’m Writing A Play About My Vagina? is one of my favourite Fringe performances to date. The play’s subject matter deals with one woman’s experience of havingvaginismus, and its vividly descriptive honesty is delicately balanced with humorous and often perfectly timed tension diffusing dialogue.
Watching this show is both a hilarious and heart-warming experience, though what makes the deepest impression upon me is the range of ages and genders I can see among the crowd, and their reactions to the story created before them. In one hour the two-woman show generates ripples of understanding and establishes a deep emotional connection with the audience. Seeing such a diverse group of people appreciate both the comic and raw aspects of Ella Langley’s story is unbelievably touching.
Issues of consent, a person’s sense of comfort, their pain, priorities, care, and the notion of being completely at one with your whole self are all explored in an intensely creative way during this pink explosion of feminine energy and expression.
This is a piece of theatre which, as the title suggests, is complicated. A show in which over the course of one hour, one person re-imagines the Odyssey and tries to find home using a bathtub, wigs, a dog hand puppet and a mirror.
I am glad that I know the Odyssey reasonably well going in, as the narrative is presented in such a complex way as to make it potentially baffling. While the monologue is gorgeous and every line like poetry, it does not make for a clear story. The exploration of gender is complex and rich, with the inner-world of a man’s suffering and aggression laid out, but with the understanding that so too has everyone suffered.
The performer’s physicality and movement are beautiful, and their ability to pick up and discard identities brilliant, but there are parts I do not understand: why was the ship a dog? Was this a re-telling of the Odyssey or a person having a gender crisis through the medium of the Odyssey? When the show concentrates on the fluidity of gender and the dissonance and dysmorphic response that can come of it, A Complicated Man sizzles with depth and meaning, otherwise we were like the Argo trying to find Ithaca: lost.
As an audience member I feel both educated and uplifted; the comedy is as spot-on as the commentary
Tokyo Rose (Theatre) Until 25 August, 18:55, Underbelly, Cowgate Reviewed by Emily Zinkin
Going into Tokyo Rose I have never heard of Iva Toguri, but I can now firmly say I will never forget her. Toguri was a Japanese-American woman trapped in Japan during World War Two and forced to work on the Zero Hour broadcasts – a radio station designed to get propaganda to Allied troops in the Pacific. After the war she agreed to do an interview claiming to be Tokyo Rose, a notorious radio jockey, in order to get the money needed to return to the US, and was instead put on trial for treason.
This slick musical skips in time between the infamous trial and the events as they unfolded, leaving us in suspense over what will happen to Toguri. Trapped between enemy lines on both sides, with the Japanese keeping a close eye on her as she refuses to give up her US citizenship and the USA itself only able to see a Japanese woman, Toguri finds herself continually backed into corners despite her bravery and spirit.
Questioning national identity and taking a new angle on the plight of Japanese-Americans during World War Two, Tokyo Rose simmers with tension and energy, and with music that brings the emotions to life. Through excellent multi-character work from everyone except the central character, and a soundtrack that has hints of Hamilton (and that I desperately want to own), Burnt Lemon Theatre have created a masterpiece.
Cabaret and Orthodox Judaism don’t often walk hand-in-hand, but when you throw in a comedy-horror description as well it is clear that Candy Gigi is onto a rare and gloriously dark thing. Featuring an unhappily married woman in Borehamwood who plans to become the biggest star she can be, and who peaked as a teenager when she won Borehamwood’s Got Talent, this show takes the audience on a wild ride.
The character of Gigi is delusional, swings wildly between charming and uncontrolled, sometimes even verging on violent. The audience never quite know what Gigi will do next, and to see such a big and unapologetically unstable woman character is as thrilling as it is shocking. Gigi’s voice is incredible, and fills the room to the rafters, but the visceral quality of the character – from biting raw onions to spitting gherkins at the front row – breaks boundaries through the shock humour.
Jordan Clarke plays both the accompanying keyboard and Gigi’s husband, and his deadpan, unaffected stance is hilarious until it becomes terrifying. This show covers some very dark topics from enforced pregnancy to murder, and is not for the faint-hearted. But the bravery and hilarity of setting it within the Orthodox Jewish community only adds to the darkness and the boldness of this bizarre but brilliant show.
Trans*Atlantic (Comedy) Until 25 August, 10:20, Laughing Horse @ The Counting House Reviewed by Emily Zinkin
Dian Cathal came to the UK from the US because of an auto-immune disease, but not before burning a bible and disappointing his parents by coming out as trans (they had a lesbian coming out banner prepared). Now he has come to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with his first solo show to prove trans jokes can be funny (and if not then he’ll claim it was theatre rather than comedy the whole time).
Cathal’s hilarious but unflinching performance looks at what it means to cross over both continental and gender divides. A TED talk that ranges from how to give trans people as much respect as buttered toast gets, to the great US/UK biscuit divide, the audience laughs and learns. Cathal’s story covers headshots, flannel shirts, family and international politics, and an imagined romance with Tom Holland that has two potential endings.
As an audience member I feel both educated and uplifted; the comedy is as spot-on as the commentary. Cathal has a message and is not afraid to tell it to the audience through the medium of humour. His honesty is present throughout the whole show. As Cathal himself says, queer people are often funny because their other option is usually crying.
Image 1, the feature image, is of Sofie Hagen. She is shown from the chest up. She is wearing a red top and is against a red background. She has straight dark hair with a fringe and black rimmed glasses. The photo is taken at the exact moment a thrown strawberry hits her face and her eyes are scrunched up in anticipation.
Image 2 is a production photograph from Have I Told You I’m Writing a Play About My Vagina? It shows Christelle Elwin sitting on stage with her phone in her hand. She is looking up at Lottie Amor who is leaning over her and laughing. Behind them is a piece of pink scenery with a representation of flames painted onto it.
Image 3 is from A Complicated Man. It shows the performer standing on stage wearing a black and white cow print apron, a blonde wig and some kind of head-torch. Their eyes are scrunched up, their mouth open and they are gesticulating towards the audience. Two pink stage lights can be seen in the darkness behind them.
Image 4 is of Tokyo Rose. It shows four performers in front of a representation of the Japanese flag – a big red circle. Three of them are singing into old fashioned microphones and they are all in very posed positions – one is jumping in the air, another is squatting close to the ground. They each wear sober 1940s clothing.
Image 5 is from Candy Gigi Presents – Friday Night Sinner! It is a black and white photo of Candy Gigi from the chest up looking intensely and challengingly into the camera which is slightly above her. She has dark lipstick and wild curly hair. She holds a candle in each hand.
Image 6 is the poster for Trans*Atlantic. It shows a head and shoulders shot of Dian Cathal on a blue background. He has a US flag on one cheek and the Union Jack on the other. Surrounding his head are grey letters in a cursive font giving the details of the show plus quotes including “A disgrace to the family name! – my Aunt Sharron.” The logos for the Free Fringe, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Soho Theatre Young Company are also on the poster.