“It’s amazing what a glass of whisky can do to make someone feel special.” Leah is serving a customer in a high-end clothes shop on Savile Row.
Star rating: ****
Venue: Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61)
In the fitting room there’s a mini-bar. It’s that kind of a place. She’s a fun, South London girl. He’s a charmer whose favourite food is rare steak. He’s never voted Labour (but can see why people like Jeremy Corbyn). Yes, he’s got money, but he’s also a nice guy – isn’t he?
Abi Zakarian’s dazzling new play peels back Leah’s dream of a good relationship with a decent man, to reveal the rot that lies beneath the diamond rings and honeymoon to the Maldives. Played with sparkling charisma by Nancy Sullivan, Leah is funny, witty and bright. Her view of the world is upbeat and optimistic – but she increasingly buys into a false idea of a happy-ever-after romance in a corner of society where men have all the money and their ‘looked after’ wives are just another commodity.
As Leah’s city boy-meets-girl fantasy turns into a nightmare, her “wedding dress made monstrous”, Zakarian’s beautifully-observed, skilfully-structured script captures the heady thrill of romance and the way this is destroyed by the mass-produced sexual violence of porn and the way this permeates real life.
It could be horribly bleak – and at times it is. But the fact that Leah still hangs on to her cotton candy dream of ‘Mr Right’, after all she’s been through, becomes a victory of hope over hate.
There are a lot of plays about violence against women at this year’s Fringe, but this one never lets the issues overpower the woman they’re affecting: instead she’s given space to shine, and sing – particularly badly on a karaoke deck. And it’s a pleasure to hear her.
Until 28 August. Today 11:55am.