Theatre review: Exactly Like You

On a 'shabby settee, the centre of Nana's community', stories flow like music and a twentysomething aspiring writer, Abby, feels like she's found her place in the world.

Rating: ****

Venue: Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61)

Spoken word artist Lotte Rice’s debut one-woman show is filled with loose lyricisms that bounce around the stage and bring life and energy to a story of moving on from bereavement and the past. When Abby’s Nina Simone-worshipping grandmother dies, she’s robbed of her hero and risks spiralling into the kind of depression and destruction that has tainted the lives of previous generations of the family.

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    However, when Nina begins to speak – and sing – her message to have “no fear” helps Abby through mundane jobs, drunken nights out and, eventually, to embrace her and her grandmother’s passion again: words.

    While parallels between Abby fighting writers’ block and Nina fighting inequality can only be taken so far, Rice’s rhythms rattle along and her ability to light up daily life with a delicately constructed phrase makes the mundane magical. Paired with extracts of Simone’s songs, this is a one-woman show that has the colour and texture of something bigger, as well as plenty of wry observations on bright characters and duller office life.

    The small story of getting over personal grief is touching, but at times Rice seems to be the person in the room feeling its emotion most. More interesting is the juxtaposition of the way we idolise both musical stars and family members – something that feels tantalisingly under-explored.

    But as a celebration of language and its seemingly endless potential to describe well-documented feelings and events in ever-original ways, the play is highly successful – and simultaneously a great example of an ­engaging new voice.

    • Until 28 August. Today 3:10pm