Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre reviews: Invisible Mending | Nympho | Kurt Vonnegut: My Lives’ Stories

Invisible Mending is a “gorgeous reflection on family, loss, memory and creativity”, reckons Susan Mansfield, while Fiona Shepherd finds something infectious about Nympho and Ariane Branigan enjoys a brief introduction to Kurt Vonnegut.

Invisible Mending ****

Summerhall (Venue 26), Until 14 August

In the spring of 2020, musician and theatre-maker Yoshika Colwell was touring in Australia when her family broke the news to her that her beloved grandmother, Ann, was ill with cancer. While she made it back to the UK just as lockdown began, she wasn’t in time to say her goodbyes to Ann.

Ann was a legendary knitter, a woman who could even read and knit at the same time, and her lovely woollen creations were frequently gifted to family members. Yoshi recalls how, once, when visiting, she happened on a old woollen sweater and took it home, returning it the next day, washed and invisibly mended. Knitting becomes the central metaphor for this piece of theatre, a collaboration with Max Barton of Second Body, about love and loss and the possibility of healing.

Yoshi contrasts her grandmother’s fierce productivity on the knitting needles with her own prevarication as she struggles to write songs, hoping the Australian tour will lift the malaise that has settled on her creative life. She reads excerpts from her diaries, creates songs live with the loop pedal, and plays recordings of her family talking about Ann. There is a story of three women weaving on a beach, the Fates, perhaps, singing what has been, what is and what could be.

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While it’s complex and too long in places, seems to have several different endings and the family recordings are overused and sometimes difficult to hear, Invisible Mending is a gorgeous reflection on family, loss, memory and creativity. It even speculates on the reasons for Ann’s prodigious knitting, and suggests that - whether invisibly or not - the mending of broken hearts is possible, in the right hands. Susan Mansfield

Nympho ***

Invisible Mending. PIC: Max Barton

ZOO Playground (Venue 186), until 13 August

Actor/writer Martha May Markham makes her grand Fringe entrance twerking around to the irresistible strains of Missy Elliott, and the rest of her debut play is similarly infectious. She plays Nympho, an upfront yet self-deprecating young woman with a penchant for making booty calls and a guilt complex about her perceived insatiability which drives her on to the couch of a £60-an-hour sex therapist, played with buttoned-up sobriety by Conor Johnston. Their sessions are darkly comic confrontations of Nympho’s past trauma and sexual habits which are literally boxed up by the end of the show.

Johnston also provides contrasting support and comic choreography as Nympho’s regular lumber, let’s-call-him-Jake, but it’s mainly Markham’s gig, capturing the mix of alacrity and uncertainty in her protagonist to a soundtrack of Britney, Fergie and Sophie Ellis Bextor hits. Nympho may be down on herself but she’s up for a night of self-pleasure to a medley of modified musical theatre hits - you’ll never hear Greased Lightning the same way again and it’s hard not to root for a character who can find the sauce in the insufferably weedy Seasons of Love. Fiona Shepherd

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Kurt Vonnegut: My Lives’ Stories ***

theSpace on North Bridge (Venue 36), until 13 August

There’s nowhere to hide in a one-person show - fortunately, playwright-cum-actor Todd Wronski, portraying the eponymous Vonnegut in Kurt Vonnegut: My Lives’ Stories, does so with a conviction that is much more character study than caricature.

Wronksi leads us through all of the pivotal moments in the author’s life – his childhood in Indianapolis, his harrowing stint in the United States army, and the writing career for which he is so well-known today – while also weaving in Vonnegut’s more philosophical musings on family, politics, and religion.

Wronski’s desire to emphasise how “broad Vonnegut was in his expressiveness” results in the tone of the monologue shifting as often as its topic does; no sooner has our narrator finished vividly recounting the horrors of war than he is relaying an offhand joke. While these tangents do serve to emphasise the multifaceted nature of Vonnegut’s work, they also make My Lives’ Stories feel disjointed and jarring at times.

Considering the sheer size of the literary estate Wronksi and director Anthony Frost had to contend with, however, the end result is still remarkably cohesive; in just under an hour, My

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Lives’ Stories succeeds in providing a comprehensive and enjoyable introduction to the life of this remarkable author. Ariane Branigan