Theatre review: The Patient Gloria, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

The Patient Gloria is a sex-positive protest with a rocking soundtrack.
The Patient Gloria is a sex-positive protest with a rocking soundtrack.
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The cackling camp crowd in tonight are so thrilled by the prospect of this show, based upon the films Three Approaches to Psychology (The Gloria Films), that they’re laughing at the jokes before it’s even started.

The Patient Gloria, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh * * * *

And if waspish wit and self-referential humour at the expense of authoritarian men is what you’re looking for – with a generous dash of joy, anger and glittering defiance – then you may well be too.

In 1964, a thirty-year-old American divorcee called Gloria took part in a series of documentary films in which she spoke intimately about her life to three male therapists, the initial intention being that the footage would be distributed in schools for educational purposes. Gina Moxley’s riotous response uses the footage as inspiration for a deeper exploration of the power dynamics between a lascivious Gloria, increasingly at ease with who she is and what she wants, and the fragile, easily satirised masculinity of men who attempt to stamp their definitions on her soul.

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Liv O’Donoghue plays Gloria, who might have the hair and dress of a traditional American housewife, but has a formidable commitment to having as much fun and sex as she wants. If she feels like being a victim and sitting in the corner, she’ll damn well do it – and somehow make it seem like the most empowered thing in the world.

 The joy Gina Moxley gets from playing comic caricatures of the three men, in a story which also powerfully draws on her own life, radiates from the stage. Jane Deasy, on guitar, adds a rock vibe to top off a bold, brilliant and highly original piece that uses an offbeat episode from history to say something bigger about the way women are policed and controlled, but also fight back.

Until 25 August

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