Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019: part three

Desiree Burch: Desiree’s Coming Early! (Comedy)
Until 25 August, 19:40, Heroes @ The Hive
Reviewed by Lissy Lovett

Desiree’s Coming Early! is a very enjoyable standup show full of jokes and ideas. Burch covers a whole host of serious subjects including racism and objectification with a light touch, all linked together by a story about 24 hours which she spent at the US festival Burning Man.

It’s a long show, she runs over her hour slightly, but it’s not at all clear that there’s anything extraneous that she could cut. Each idea links back or forwards to another one without a dull moment. Her final message, a not unusual one for an Edinburgh comedy hour, of hope in the face of possible despair is delivered extremely well; unlike some other comedians, Burch doesn’t need to dwell on it to make sure it sinks in.

Burch laughs at herself as well as the characters she meets along the way and holds the attention of the room perfectly. There’s an authenticity in her words which I really appreciate. At the end she’s honest about what parts of her show were facts and which parts she embroidered slightly to make for a better show, which only reinforces her message.

Emancipation (Comedy)
Until 25 August, 21:00, PQA Venues @Riddle’s Court
Reviewed by Lissy Lovett

Emancipation is one of Lorraine Chademunhu’s shows in Edinburgh this year about having a voice that sounds like a man’s. (The other one is Mista Lorraine.) It’s clearly a subject on which Chademunhu has no end of material – it seems her life is spent assuring people over the phone that she is, in fact, a woman.

The majority of the show uses songs and sound cues to make its point. Chademunhu spends ages on the phone to a call centre employee at Sheila’s Wheels insisting that she does qualify for their insurance. My favourite sequence comes at the beginning though, when Chademunhu tells the audience about the man she’s met on a dating app, Donald, but ends up having a frustrating conversation with the disembodied voice of Donald Trump. There are plenty of visual gags and puns in the show too.

I would say that the ideas and jokes in this show have a lot of promise, but that Chademunhu sometimes delivers them quite woodenly and doesn’t always make sure she’s actually in the light on stage which affects how well they hit home – it’s clear that she’s still relatively new to performing and isn’t a professional just yet. But I laugh a lot throughout which is the most important thing.

Sexy Lamp (Theatre)
Until 26 August, 14:00, Pleasance Courtyard
Reviewed by Lissy Lovett

Katie Arnstein begins her one-woman show wearing a lampshade on her head while a recording of Seth MacFarlane’s misconceived opening song for the 2013 Oscars, ‘We Saw Your Boobs’ plays. The title refers to the Sexy Lamp Test, invented by Kelly Sue DeConnick – a test which says if a woman character in a piece of fiction could conceivably be replaced with a sexy lamp, then the piece of work fails the test.

Arnstein goes on to tell a story about how she became an actor and some of the things that happened to her as a young woman in the industry. She plays the occasional song on a ukulele and impersonates other characters in the story. It could be a pretty depressing tale of discrimination and sexual assault, but instead it becomes a story of hope and kindness. Arnstein’s a warm and confident performer and though the show is simply staged, she makes good use of lighting.

At one point however, Arnstein mentions that something some people say to her when she says she’s an actor is that it’s “one step up from being a prostitute” – as the audience we’re invited to see the supposed insult in this comment and be shocked on her behalf. Later in the show she also comments negatively on how a temp agency she worked for may (or may not) have also operated as an escort agency. Of course young women desperate for work should not be exploited, but neither should a play supposedly about women’s empowerment use sex work as a punchline.

The words skilled, engaging, experimental and scientific can all be used to describe the experience that is The Female Role Model Project because it deftly weaves together neuroscience and day-to-day lives

Ask A Stripper (Cabaret and Variety)
Until 25 August, 19:50, Heroes @ Bob’s BlundaBus
Reviewed by Archanaa Seker

Ask A Stripper is exactly as described: the chance to ask Morag and Stacey Clare, strippers with 30 years of combined experience, what it means to be one. The show begins with a tease (literally) and very quickly gets down to the basics. The main act has Morag and Stacey inviting questions from the audience. The first couple of shy hands belong to those who want to know about awkward experiences and celebrity customers, and this helps the audience lose any inhibition. Morag and Stacey continuously complement each other, being both funny and factual, and egg the audience toward edgier questions.

For a show that relies on audience participation and places no filters on what may be asked, the strippers are prepared for everything. Morag and Stacey are in fact only waiting for an opportunity to steer the conversation toward feminism, bodily autonomy and labour rights. By the end of the exchange they’ve answered all of the audience’s questions and removed any lingering shame that we might have thought shrouded stripping. Ask A Stripper holds up a mirror to the audience, effectively exposing the problems with preconceptions. Morag and Stacey insist in unison that there is only one reason they strip – money. On where to put your money at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe there are many answers, and Ask A Stripper is definitely one.

The Female Role Model Project (Theatre)
Until 25 August, 12:00, Bedlam Theatre
Reviewed by Archanaa Seker

Hardly a couple of minutes into the show, two members of the audience become the ones chosen to share a personal story. Five minutes later, all seats are empty because everyone has been asked to step onto the stage for a game. The Female Role Model Project is exciting from the get-go, and the 90 minutes are neatly packed into segments keeping the audience glued to the action.

The words skilled, engaging, experimental and scientific can all be used to describe the experience that is The Female Role Model Project because it deftly weaves together neuroscience and day-to-day lives. As children, teenagers and adults we see women grow up and live with rules, insecurities, and boundaries but the USP of the show is the technology – live neural and verbal feedback – that allows us to hear and see the thought processes attached to these issues. The neuroscience interpretations feel exhausting sometimes, but the imagery and sound keep the audience’s attention going.

How do we think what we think? What drives the conception of gendered ideas, thoughts and words, and what needs to happen to change our deeply rooted attitudes and assumptions? The Female Role Model Project answers these questions by sometimes using neuroscience to enhance the story and at others by breaking down the science with the story. At all times, it reminds us that women can be exceptional at both.

Scottish Feminist Judgments: Reimagining the Law from the Outside In (Exhibitions)
Until 26 August, University of Edinburgh Law School
Reviewed by Archanaa Seker

The Scottish Feminist Judgments Project is part of an ongoing global series which aims to have key legal judgements rewritten from a feminist perspective. This is done taking into account the resources that would have existed when the case was originally heard. The exhibition Scottish Feminist Judgments: Reimagining the Law from the Outside In uses poetry, performance art, photography, illustration and textile design to reimagine the outcomes of landmark judgements including those of the Drury “sexual infidelity” and Jex-Blake cases. The small display signifies the start of a large movement that highlights the gender bias of the law and the lives that have been lost to it, while making a call to challenge and re-think the language we use within and around the law.

Image 1 (the feature image) is a publicity shot for Desiree Burch. She is wearing pink makeup and looking slightly downwards in a composed and slightly sultry way. She wears a sequined top and has very curly dark hair. A big clock face can just be seen behind her.

Image 2 is the poster for Emancipation. It shows Lorraine Chademunhu looking straight at the camera with her mouth open. Below her mouth is a cartoon man holding a ladder up to her mouth. The name of the show is in yellow across the top of the poster, with the letters “man” picked out in blue. Chademunhu’s face is in black and white, but the rest of the poster is brightly coloured. Details about where and when the show is are in black letters on a yellow background along the bottom of the poster.

Image 3 is a publicity image for Sexy Lamp with Katie Arnstein and is by Simon Jefferis. It shows the performer sitting behind a table. She is wearing a big leopard-print lampshade on her head so you can’t see her face and a black shoulderless top. There is a blonde plait hanging down her shoulder. She holds a pint of beer and their are a pile of books on the table including Everyday Sexism and the complete works of Shakespeare. Behind her there are flower boxes with yellow flowers in which there is nestled a ukulele.

Image 4 is of Stacey Clare and Gypsy Charms in Ask A Stripper, the image is by to Hannah Jay Brooks and Sarah Hardcastle Ward. It’s a full-length shot of both performers looking straight at the camera against a white background. They both wear pink – one a short tight dress and the other a hoodie – and both wear pink platform heels. They both have very long legs. One has a designer handbag over her shoulder and a small dog at her feet. The other has a purple sports bag in which a bottle of Buckfast Tonic Wine can just be seen and is also holding a vaping device.

Image 5 is from The Female Role Model Project and shows a performer sitting on a chair facing to the right of the photo. She wears a pink dress and has apparatus on her head to measure her brain waves. On a screen behind her are projected the words “BRAIN EXPLORATION” in green on a dark blue background.

Image 6 is a photograph of a video running in the gallery. The screen showing the video can be seen, and below it the video player and the headphones that a visitor would use to listen to it. The still of the video that can be seen on the screen shows a figure in a long dress throwing a chair onto a pile of other chairs. The video is a response to the Jex-Blake case by theatre director Sofia Nakou and collaborative partner, performance artist and choreographer Becky O’Brien.