Publicist: Raymond-Kym Suttle
To be honest, I arrived a little late, so I missed the first 10 minutes. As a result it took me a little while to get into the swing of things and for a while I wasn't sure what the prevailing tone of the show was intended to be. It started off being played as quite broad comedy and then slowly morphed into something else. Which isn't a bad thing, it's nice to be eased into serious topics of discussion but I felt like I wanted a bit more depth in a lot of the scenes which sometimes seemed way too short (but then I'm a writer who has a tendency to be verbose, so I'm happy to admit that it may just be a stylistic preference).
I thought the cast was good, though occasionally I felt that they played to the audience a bit too much which meant that they weren't playing the scenes with each other as much as I would have liked. I absolutely loved the device of splitting the central character into three people but I sometimes felt they weren't consistent in their points of view - I would have preferred them to have more clearly defined voices rather than being so easily interchangeable (by which I mean, I would have preferred them to have specific agendas they were each sticking too but often they said lines, split between three actresses for equanimity rather than divided according to their specific attitude to a subject or person).
Clearly the women in the audience related very strongly to a story/theme that many have experienced and it's always great when an audience feels that it's being represented on stage. As a man I could still relate to aspects of the story that encompassed bullying, belonging/a desire to be accepted/fit in. I was moved by the relationship issues towards the end of the play and that was, for me, the strongest part of the play, particularly as it offered me some insight as to why someone who has someone who loves them, might sabotage that love. That was very moving.
I wish that the stage hadn't felt quite so cluttered - my preference would have been to create more space centre stage by placing the screens asymmetrically - one upstage right or left and the other, downstage right or left, and maybe lost the seesaw which was an interesting touch but not essential to the plot and used up a lot of the playing space - that being said, they used it a lot, and it's a great image for the balancing act that I know so many people trying to lose weight seem to feel - the seesaw of losing and gaining weight.
I did enjoy the show but I left feeling unsatisfied and I'm still not sure why - most probably because I really wanted greater depth of insight that would have come from each facet of the three versions of the character being clearer about how they each experience the world. I look forward to discussing this more with the production team in person, if they want to!
The bulk of the audience loved the show and I'm aware I'm being guilty of the tendency to think "how would I have directed this" as I was watching, which can get in the way of simply enjoying a show.
For me this was a niche-market play - because of the fantasy element of it - and I think a lot of people may not have come to see it simply because they really didn't know what it was going to be about, which is a pity because it was well-worth seeing. I enjoyed it thoroughly - great writing and superb acting.
Let me start by saying that this is going to be a glowing review, but I also want to preface this review by saying that, a) I'm a very harsh critic, b) I've seen very little at the Fringe that I've loved 100% but this came close, c) I don't see any value in being uncritical - as creators we have to take criticism and use it if we are to grow and develop.
That being said, as someone who has very high standards for what I find good theatre, this play hit the mark.
There was a section at the beginning of the play that I got lost - I felt like I was playing catch up with the text because there's a lot of unfamiliar terminology, and unfamiliar names of characters and I didn't really know what was going on for a good 10 minutes as the text jumped from a reality within a reality within a reality. In many ways this felt like a short story/prose piece that needed to be read to truly appreciate the skill of the story weaving, and I think it would make a great short story.
However, once I had caught up I was delighted by both the language of the script and the performance.
Drew has a talent for language and writing poetically that I envy. He creates beautiful imagery with his words and it was a unique story that I ultimately found very moving, even though, truth be told, I wasn't entirely sure what point, if any, was being made. One section that got me thinking was the moment when Anna starts talking about how we can never know the moment we fall asleep - we lose consciousness and we may have a form of consciousness when we start dreaming but that transition seems to be unobservable (perhaps some shamans/meditators can do it?).
Jinny is a fantastic actress. She slipped effortlessly between naturalism and caricature (this is in no way a critical term, just a description of her delightful and entertaining broad characterization for the people who populate this fantasy landscape). I really appreciated the fact that she managed to create at least 6, maybe more, distinct characters replete with vocal, physical and personality traits. Her physicality in terms of creating magical gestures as she 'dream-weaved' was wonderful to watch.
As a director myself, I was transported away from my critical brain and just relaxed into enjoying her performance - and then at the end of the show was immediately wondering what I could cast her in myself!
I loved the use of voice overs and some of the visual gags, like the pertinently timed blackouts and the flip-chart messages at the end. Some great directorial choices!
Many of the criticisms I've had about other solo shows were addressed in this performance. Crystal is not only a powerhouse of a performer (boy does she work hard for her money!) but she's also incredibly brave in telling her story so candidly - I'm presuming it's all true - and yet, simultaneously, managing to make it incredibly entertaining and informative.
I love the way she was able to seamlessly and swiftly switch from character to character, clearly delineating each person both physically and vocally, enabling her to effectively have conversations/dialogue rather than just monologues to the audience.
Her emotional range is incredible. When she effortlessly glides from playing the personification of Meth to a distressed hallucinating version of herself, screaming for help one second and then calmly and maliciously enjoying her own distress as the drug observes it's affect on her, I couldn't help but be in awe of her skills as an actress. I'm sorry she had to live through what she went through but boy oh boy has it made her an incredible actress. All the more so because it takes a lot to be that vulnerable on stage with your own personal story.
This was the first and only show I absolutely HAD to give a standing ovation for and it takes a LOT to get me to stand for an ovation!
There were a few things I would have changed if I'd directed this show, but Crystal is such a powerful and compelling performer that it more than made up for any of the things I would've changed. What a pity it's finished already, but if it gets a well-deserved encore, go and see it!I also liked the clearly genuine heartfelt gratitude at the end of the show, expressed regarding the privilege of having an audience's attention and the fact that she didn't waste a second of our time. A fascinating insight into a life I'm grateful I haven't had to live, but am in awe of the fact that she has not only triumphed over adversity but come out of the other side shining!
It's tricky to judge the true quality of a show when the audience is packed with a performer's friends and family, as I think was the case, but I don't know that for sure. Whoever they were, the audience loved the show and gave it a standing ovation.
Glennis has apparently not been on stage for a while and whatever nerves she may have had were deftly channelled into her performance. The premise is an interesting one and the writing serves it's purpose but, personally, I would have preferred a bit more depth in terms of exploring the reasons for her retreat into both the cave and musicals. I felt that there wasn't enough exploration of why she started drinking in the first place - it IS explained but I thought that the show could have done with at least one heartfelt ballad (since we're in a musical) explaining her true feelings/heartache - but maybe that's for Cave Girl 2.0?
That being said, I still recall one poignant quotable quote: "It's like suicide, without dying" which was one of those lines I thought 'damn, I wish I'd thought of that!'.
When the songs are in her comfortable range (a few require her to sing a little too low I felt) she has a stunning voice and there are some moments of great beauty. She has a masterful awareness of how to use her arms and hands whilst singing, that effortlessly compliment her emotions and the lyrics. She's a charismatic performer and instantly likable. It's an interesting mix of comedy and personal trauma.
Overall, I enjoyed it and I'm glad I saw it!
I really wanted this to be amazing & whilst it's an interesting story (it's always intriguing to hear people's life stories) I felt that the pacing was far too slow and also too even - every transition from one character to the next was exactly the same; when she was doing dialogue between two characters the transitions from one character to the other and back again were all the same length (which was too long for my tastes - I wanted some snappy back & forth, especially in arguments). I also felt that the balance between the backstory and the ultimate reveal of how things turned out was too quick - I wanted to know more details about the outcome of her journey. It felt to me that the whole piece could have easily been 10 minutes shorter just by tightening up the transitions and dialogue.
That being said, the rest of the audience gave her a standing ovation, so they clearly enjoyed the performance. It was touching to see the photos of the real people in the story and the message is a good strong one: don't think you can discard people simply because they do a job you look down on, because you never know what people are capable of. I think, if the pace of the show is quickened overall, and definitely if there's some variety in the pacing between scenes, this show will be inspirational to many people who have been led to believe the people who tell them they'll never amount to anything/their dreams are ridiculous.