Theatre review: Baby Reindeer, Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh

FOR THE LAST three years, the Scottish-born writer, actor and comedian Richard Gadd has been involved in the high-risk business of making solo performance out of his own personal experiences and traumas.
Master storyteller Richard Gadd returns with another heart-wrenching personal taleMaster storyteller Richard Gadd returns with another heart-wrenching personal tale
Master storyteller Richard Gadd returns with another heart-wrenching personal tale

Baby Reindeer, Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh * * * *

He did it in Monkey See, Monkey Do, his 2016 Fringe Comedy Award winning show, in which he ran on a track machine through a searing monologue about his previously unspoken experience, four years earlier, of being raped by a senior showbiz industry figure.

And now, he does it again, with this brand-new theatre show about his shocking experience of being stalked by a woman he met while working in a bar in London. With hindsight, it’s easy to see the minor errors of judgement that contributed a little to Gadd’s plight: his initial willingness to flirt with an evidently eccentric older woman, his brief involvement in sending her sexy and flirtatious texts, and his inability to muster the cruelty completely to shut down her fantasy that they were in a relationship.

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None of these mistakes, though, even begin to account for the sheer madness with which this woman eventually began to pursue him, emailing and texting hundreds of times a week, abusing his family and partners through every available medium, doorstepping his flat, haunting his comedy gigs, and creating scenes at the pub. It is a terrible tale, which reveals just how inadequate current legal and health systems are in dealing with multi-media stalking of this kind, with the mental health problems of the perpetrators, or with its ruinous impact on the lives of victims, male as well as female.

Because the storyteller is Richard Gadd, though - a master-narrator full of intelligent insight and sheer descriptive power - the 65-minute story is always vibrant, compelling, pulsing with life. And although it is not always funny - it is, after all, an account of a double human tragedy - it is also packed with brilliant, perfectly-placed humour; never so much so that we fail to grasp the seriousness of the subject, but always enough to remind us that shared laughter can heal, even when the law itself fails to protect us from harm.

Until 25 August