“The candypop colours fizz and zing and feel alive with fun and possibility”
Since U Been Gone is an autobiographical piece, in which Teddy Lamb intertwines stories of personal grief and loss with their own ongoing journey of self-discovery and self-definition. Teddy tells the story, with a live underscore performed on the electric guitar by Nicol Parkinson – quietly resplendent in a fabulous silver frock – with whom they share a stage. Teddy is a charming and engaging performer, with a gentle touch, who establishes a sense of warm intimacy with the audience immediately. Their words are direct and honest – as this type of show demands – but are occasionally shot through with beautiful currents of unexpected poetry. They are also, at points, extremely funny. (Put it this way, no-one who sees this show will every hear Eminem’s Lose Yourself in the same way again!).
Pete Butler (Set Designer) and Zia Bergin-Holly (Lighting Designer) have made the show look gorgeous, with a palette reminiscent of a 1960s TV set. The candypop colours fizz and zing and feel alive with fun and possibility, which serves at different times as both emphasis and ironic counterpoint to the narrative. For the most part, Billy Barrett (Director), wisely lets Teddy tell us the story without too much directorial intervention, and the few more obviously choreographed moments are well-placed, helping to give the words extra pace and texture when they need it. The live underscore is wonderful throughout, and the occasional moments in which Nicol Parkinson subtly sashays into the story, with a perfectly timed twang of the guitar, are just sublime.
This show is more than an intimate audience with an engaging performer, however. Teddy Lamb’s cleverly crafted text shines a light on the difficulties that beset gender-queer people on a daily basis in our society. Our non-binary and trans brothers and sisters encounter hostility and aggression in every aspect of their lives almost continually, and it behoves us all to step up and do better. One of the things we can all start with is pronoun awareness. Early on in the show, Teddy explains that, unlike the ‘strong, soft, comfortable’ feeling the pronoun ‘they’ gives, ‘he’ ‘feels like wearing an uncomfortable beige suit’. Which begs the question: why should anyone feel uncomfortable in what they wear, when clothes should allow us to dance?
“will need a more powerfully unique identity to make a lasting impression”
Essie has lost her job, her girlfriend, most of her savings, and she’s just one more interview away from losing her mind. Written by Margaret Perry, performed by Breffni Holahan, and directed by Thomas Martin, Collapsible is a one-woman show about a world overflowing with information, but short on meaning.
If you missed Collapsible at VAULT Festival earlier this year, you have a second chance to catch it at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. One of several HighTide productions in Edinburgh this summer, Collapsible has instances of very good writing, but it’s missing the innovation it needs to stand out above the crowd of shows about middle-class problems.
Alison Neighbour’s set is striking. Echoing a demolition site, there’s rubble on the ground, and broken metal beams framing the space in a triangle. Holahan sits high up on a short, jagged slab of concrete supported by a pole. She remains on this perch for the duration of the show. Her precarious position, surrounded by the remains of a collapsed building, provide effective, creative visual reinforcement of the play’s themes. Holahan, confined to a block just a couple feet square, gives an impressive performance. She holds nothing back in communicating the depth of Essie’s sadness.
The play explores Essie’s narcissism, depression, and experience of depersonalisation as she goes back through her list of contacts (including old teachers and ex-partners) to try to better understand herself. Because narcissism dominates the story, it quickly overwhelms it. The constant rumination on who Essie is precisely – what kind of person she is – makes the scenes more insular than relatable. It results in the show feeling very long for its sixty-minute runtime. The writing is stronger when it moves away from Essie’s quest to define herself. The descriptions of depression (being filled with stones) and depersonalisation are more compelling.
Regrettably, especially in Essie’s relationships with her family, the story is very much in the shadow of Fleabag. Perry may well be giving an authentic account of her own experience, but because something so similar has already been done on such a large scale, the edge is lost. The scenes between Essie and her sister, her friend, and her dad feel derivative. There’s a nagging sense throughout that we’ve seen and heard it all before.
Middle-class emptiness is well-trodden territory; it’s too easy for shows like this one to get lost in the shuffle. Collapsible will need a more powerfully unique identity to make a lasting impression. As it is, Neighbour’s set is the most singular part of the production.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Assembly Roxy until 25th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019