Theatre review: dressed, Underbelly Cowgate

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.

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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.

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