Theatre review: dressed, Underbelly Cowgate

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What do you do to mend your life after you’ve suffered a horrible, destructive assault? That’s the question that brings together the four creator-performers of this beautiful, searching, painful and sometimes joyful show.

dressed, Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61) ****

The four young women are Lydia Higginson, Josie Dale-Jones, Nobahar Mahdavi and Olivia Norris; and they have been friends since the age of 10, when they met at a dance class. They show us the dance they were learning then; an introductory glimpse of their closeness, their shared memories, their childhood innocence.

One of them, though – Lydia, a gifted costume designer and seamstress – has a story to tell about something that happened a couple of years ago, just before she was due to return from a city overseas. The house where she was staying was invaded by armed robbers, almost all the contents stolen, the rooms trashed. She was violently stripped of her clothes; she doesn’t describe what followed, because she doesn’t need to. Then two days later, she flew home, to try to tell her friends and family what had happened.

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So far, so sickeningly familiar. What makes dressed so memorable, though, is the way Lydia eventually begins to rediscover her sense of control and agency through sewing and dressmaking; she sets herself the challenge of discarding all her shop-bought clothes, and remaking her entire wardrobe from scratch, within a year.

The result is a vivid show full of life and colour, as the performers tell the tale, and show off the beautiful costumes Lydia has made, all flowing lines and beautiful, richly-coloured linings. There’s no suggestion here that recovery is easy. Yet there is a powerful feeling that the strongest healing forces lie in the love of friends and in our own wellspring of creative power; and this show embodies both, with joy, compassion and a rich flow of energy around the stage and out into the audience.

• Until 26 August, 6pm