Fringe review round-up: Love (Watching Madness) | The Rebirth of Meadow Rain | Definitely Louise | A Short Cut to Happiness

Exploring issues from motherhood to mental health, Tim Cornwell reviews four, young, one-woman shows

Hannah Moss in The Rebirth of Meadow Rain

Love (Watching Madness), Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker Three (Venue 33). Until 26 August * * *

The Rebirth of Meadow Rain, Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker One (Venue 33). Until 26 August. * * *

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Definitely Louise, Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre – Attic (Venue 76). Until 25 August. * *

Bethany Heath in Definitely Louise

A Short Cut to Happiness, ZOO Playground – Playground 2 (Venue 186). Until 26 August. * * * *

In the run-up to this year’s festival people pitched me stories on a surge of shows from women taking on the issues: a whole wash of new writing from comedy to “gig theatre”, from motherhood to mental health. In a random day of reviewing, here they were: four, young, one-woman shows, personal, painful, though the last three tagged comedy.

Trouble for Izzy starts when her mum throws a trifle at her best friend: funny, but not funny, and a Waitrose trifle too. Love (Watching Madness) is a powerful, visceral performance, played in the perfect intimate space, the tunnelled bunkers at the back of Pleasance.

A daughter is watching her mum falling away from the other mums, literally and metaphorically. She just wants to fix her, wants to succeed for her, wants to check that she’s still breathing. Isabelle Kabban plays Izzy and her mother: a twist of her head, a glazed look, a flattening of the features, is all it takes to distinguish them, and often it’s hard to tell them apart.

Read More

Read More
Comedy review: Sara Barron: Enemies Closer, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

She’s trying to make a separate life, to move out to uni. She wants to tell her mother above all that she loves her, with so many reasons why, a relationship told in words floating in water.

This is a terribly sad, moving exploration of the meaning and steadfastness of a child’s love, in the face of tough odds. All credit to Ruth Anna Phillips’s direction, and Kabban for taking on a story inspired by her mother’s own diagnosis of bipolar disorder, at the late age of 62.

Breaking up is hard to do in The Rebirth of Meadow Rain, a story of love, abuse, and angel fish. Meadow has been saying sorry too often, and a toxic boy called Terry is turning thoroughly unpleasant, closing out her best friend Miranda. This is a message show, supported by UK Says No More, for ending domestic violence and sexual assault, and gets an important point across.

Hannah Moss delivers nicely on insecurity and endearing looks, from a girl whose inner Little Mermaid is being nastily crushed. She gets good laughs for audience participation, but when it’s a kind of pass the parcel with the front row it breaks the flow of Meadow’s emerging character.

Bethany Heath has a tough crowd in Definitely Louise: everyone in the room is 25 years older, though we’ve made it up the attic stairs. The elderly punter in front was trying not to take nap time, while the women behind tut-tutted about bad language. I’d love to have heard them on the simulated anal sex in Meadow Rain.

Heath wrote and performs almost entirely alone, as a failing actress playing out her life in a lonely room. She does great pastiches and accents: squeaky Hollywood actress, rape victim, actor competing haplessly for a part in a musical against snotty drama school graduates, a sort of Bridget Jones redux.

But the piece is like an extended audition, where story, set-up and sting in the tale wait in the wings far too long, and props go oddly unengaged.

My heart sank at the opening of A Short Cut to Happiness. Julia Kiara, Swedish-Irish motivational speaker, crashing on in the most dreadful red pants suit, can’t get the sound right, her words half- drowned out by the happy tune blasting out on the back- track. Like Timon in the Lion King, she cries, “I don’t care about your childhood; mine wasn’t exactly a Disney movie.” Relentlessly upbeat, tossing confetti in the air, she shouts out: “Depression is cancelled! Mental illness: well, if you weep over an over-ripe avocado, you’ve got problems. But we’re doing Eurovision!”

It was writer and performer Emilie Hetland’s Irish brogue that warned us that a professional was in town. (She’s actually Norwegian, but trained in Ireland.) There were creeping echoes of Will Adamsdale, who won the-then Perrier Comedy Award in 2004 playing another fake life coach with Jackon’s Way, and it has the same sense of pathos. But there’s a quite different Julia behind the laptop, and soon her fictions come crashing down, darkly and disturbingly.

The piece was developed by the European Volya Theatre, and in the Fringe programme it’s tagged tragedy and comedy. In the unpromisingly distant quarters of the new ZOO Playground venue, you sense a diamond in the rough.