Theatre review: Do Our Best, Underbelly - Cowgate, Edinburgh

Do Our Best  3 stars, Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61)
Do Our Best 3 stars, Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61)
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The title is a quotation from the Girl Guide oath.

Do Our Best, Underbelly - Cowgate, Edinburgh * * *

Remy Beasley’s new monologue begins as a kind of romp in guide uniform, as our deafeningly loud and bossy heroine, Sophie, spends her childhood bullying other girls, making up contemptuous insults to fire at their kindly middle-aged Brown Owl, and generally indulging in pointless one-upmanship involving the effort to win her guide badge for performing and entertainment.

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Mercifully, though, it soon becomes clear that Beasley’s stand-up comedy turn as a revolting kid is not the heart and soul of the play; and although it takes time for the narrative to recover from its long and misleading opening sequence, what finally emerges is a much more promising study of a young woman broken by grief at the death of her mother, and returning to the guide hut she left a decade before in the hope of finding some kindness and security there. Towards the end, as she makes her journey towards a full feminist appreciation of her mother’s life, her courage and her gaiety, the writing acquires the brilliant, lurid quality of a feminist vision combined with a fever dream; and although it’s a long time coming, and the structure of Do Our Best almost obscures it from view, the sheer force, poetry and emotion of the play’s final scenes suggests a huge talent, just waiting to find a more sympathetic form.

Until 25 August

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