Felicity Ward: The Hedgehog Dilemma
Underbelly, Bristo Square (Venue 300)
Star rating: * * * *
In a show bursting with ridiculous set-pieces and fatuous asides, powered by this Australian’s formidable, irrepressible energy, there’s a poignant, underlying predicament at its core. A Freudian analogy, The Hedgehog Dilemma asks whether we should pair up or not? Should the animals share body warmth in winter and risk injury on each other’s quills? Or live alone, with no opportunity to hurt each other, but with the creeping likelihood of a cold, lonely death?
For Ward, the dilemma was brought into focus by her impending marriage and the alcoholism she was forced to acknowledge. If this all sounds a bit heavy, don’t worry. She recounts everything with sardonic, easy humour that doesn’t brush over the pain, sporadically released in recreated tantrums or episodes of quivering insecurity, but for the most part recalled with cheerful self-mockery.
The show’s highlight is a dementedly exuberant song and dance routine, a jaunty knees-up through all the humiliating, drink-related debacles of her life, exemplifying the showy, clownish inclinations with which she so often delivers her more awkward anecdotes.
There’s a compelling survivor’s feistiness to the twists and turns of her recovery, something she broadens out with characterisations of her mother and sister, her potentially preoccupied therapist, the boorish, blokeish Brit and out-of-her-league toyboy whom the 29-year-old dated, as well as the giddy account of a whirlwind romance in Edinburgh.
This last development, her cynicism about her self-obsessed peers and the festival, contrasted with her girlish, besotted blinkers and comedian’s capacity to go too far, maintains the momentum. There are sequences when she draws the crowd in for greater intimacy. But generally, Ward puts everything out there, with song, dance, slides, costume changes and bags of brave, goofy charm. She’s a spiky ball of fun to embrace.
• Until 27 August. Today 10pm.