By Jen McGregor
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is one of the best actors you will see this Fringe. Her performance in this one-woman show is stunning. She holds the stage effortlessly, in spite of the obnoxious noise spill in Big Belly, where everything happening on the Cowgate can be heard clearly in the auditorium. The character she plays is prickly, damaged and difficult to like, but Waller-Bridge’s perfect delivery makes her compelling.
The protagonist is a nameless young woman who struggles with life, relationships, sex, work and feminism. If this makes her sound like a Millennial Bridget Jones, think again – this girl is far too self-destructive and too deeply screwed up for a rom com ending. She’s obsessed with sex, but her break-ups and hook-ups are sordid and unsatisfying and there’s a strong sense that each one damages her a little more. As the play progresses, the truth about this woman’s life slowly becomes clear and we begin to realize that we are in the company of a brilliantly unreliable narrator.
It’s an incredibly bold character study, and Waller-Bridge (who also wrote the script) deserves a great deal of credit for her creation. It’s a neatly-crafted portrayal of someone whose life is a mess, and it’s not afraid to go to dark and scary places. Be warned – there are a couple of truly harrowing moments in this play. There are also a lot of laughs, although it’s often slightly guilty laughter, tinged with the feeling that we really shouldn’t be encouraging this young woman to do the things she’s doing.
There are a few moments that weaken the piece slightly, such as the job interview where the interviewer is represented by a pre-recorded voice. Although Waller-Bridge does a great job of responding to this absent figure, the scene sits awkwardly with other conversations in which she simply narrates both sides. Recorded sound is occasionally used to set the scene, but it’s unnecessary. The writing and performance have already provided everything required, so the recorded material just seems a little intrusive.
However, these are minor criticisms. This is a very strong piece of writing performed by a top notch actor and deserves to be one of this year’s hot tickets.