Theatre Review: Subject Mater, Paradise in the Vault, Edinburgh

"Women's destinies are fascinating when they have one, but even more so when they don't"
"Women's destinies are fascinating when they have one, but even more so when they don't"
Share this article
Have your say

A theatrical ode to a vivacious, egocentric Frenchwoman and mother, who fills a kitchen with romance, this semi-autobiographical show, written and co-performed by Nadia Cavelle, is as delicious as the peaches being chopped in its chic on-stage kitchen

Subject Matter, Paradise in the Vault, Edinburgh * * * *

In a pastel pink and citrus yellow world of domesticity, Cavelle plays Roxanne, a woman who embraces her role as a mother but also so much more. A starlet behind the sink and diva everywhere else, Roxanne sings of her dreams with as much relish as the white chocolate, lemon custard and nougatine she cooks, delivering bittersweet observations on the limitations of her life like tart petit fours of truth.

Between sequences, the meticulously constructed glamour of Roxanne's world is unsympathetically interrupted by Cavelle and her co-performers, Zachary Fall and Lorna Nickson Brown, as the put-upon children, who have had to deal with the practicalities of both having a goddess for a mother and setting up the tape player and set.

READ MORE: 21 must-see shows returning to the Fringe in 2019

Beneath the comic-tragic melodrama of Roxanne's obsession with her own crushed aspirations is a troubled relationship with her at times abusive husband. "You're deluded," he says. "No, diluted," she replies. But despite being in some ways trapped, in others she's free – a woman with her own distinctive voice who's unafraid to use it, no matter who gets hurt, not least, at times, her kids.

As Roxanne, Cavelle delivers pithy one-liners with the statuesque poise of a screen legend. "Women's destinies are fascinating when they have one, but even more so when they don't," she announces, like a cross between Joan Rivers and Gandi being interviewed by Vogue. Finally, she proclaims, "My pout shall live on for generations" – aesthetic looks as much a part of her legacy as her life and children, and three things that, despite pressure to do otherwise, she places equal, unapologetic importance on.

Until 17 August

For unlimited access to The Scotsman's festival coverage, subscribe here.​