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Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Deer Woman / Pathetic Fallacy / Blind Date | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Deer Woman / Pathetic Fallacy / Blind Date

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Deer Woman / Pathetic Fallacy / Blind Date

Three contrasting shows at CanadaHub tackle racism, climate change and clowning

Deer Woman: Cherish Violet Blood delivers a spellbinding performance in a gruesome tale of revengePrudence Upton

Deer Woman CanadaHub ★★★   

You can feel the fury emanating from the stage in Tara Beagan’s incendiary solo play. Fury at the thousands of Indigenous Canadian women and girls who have gone missing in recent decades, abducted, raped and killed, and often never found (or even looked for). And fury, too, at well-meaning white liberals wringing their hands at such atrocities, yet ultimately doing nothing – like the majority of those in the audience, in fact.

It’s a startling, extreme show, delivered in a spellbinding performance by Cherish Violet Blood that seems to dare you to look away from the horrors she’s cataloguing. Blood plays Lila, hunter, war veteran and proud Blackfoot woman, who looks back on a life of abuse and neglect with pitch-black humour, only fracturing when she remembers her beloved sister Hammy, one of those abducted. It’s a slow-burn monologue, delivered unhurriedly but with slowly accumulating power, until the show’s grisly closing segment, when the full horror of Lila’s incandescent revenge is laid starkly bare.

Its grand guignol gruesomeness aside, Deer Woman’s conclusion strikes an oddly inconsistent note with the carefully considered, very persuasive writing that has gone before, transforming righteous fury into gleeful revenge and somehow trivialising the work’s themes in the process. Nevertheless, it’s a work of immense power, shining an unforgiving light on an issue virtually unknown this side of the Atlantic, and showcasing a remarkably compelling performer.Pathetic Fallacy

Pathetic Fallacy CanadaHub ★★★   

Vancouver-based writer and director Anita Rochon is clearly living according to her beliefs. She’s put together a show dealing loosely with climate change, but has decided not to contribute to environmental problems herself by staying in Canada rather than jetting in to Edinburgh. Instead of appearing in person, she’s put together a video presentation, and for each performance a stranger plays her role blind in front of it – in the performance I saw, it was Aussie comedian Sam Taunton, who did a splendidly entertaining job at it. These two elements are merged using clever greenscreen effects.

It’s a witty conceit and, by now, a well-established setup, certainly in Edinburgh at festival time where performers willing to stand in front of an audience and follow instructions they’ve never seen before are hardly thin on the ground. But it also proves a strangely distracting, mood-breaking counterpoint to Rochon’s thoughtful, sometimes meandering reflections on the weather and our relationship with it. At times, in fact, Pathetic Fallacy feels like two shows running simultaneously: a cool, evocative reflection on climate, and a more manic, farcical twin as Rochon’s victim attempts to keep up with her clearly elaborate instructions.

The show’s underlying material is engaging and thought-provoking, but it’s rather scattergun, too, taking in TV weather reports from across the globe, how hurricanes are named, a lengthy interview with her father, fine art, spiritual reflections and more, to such an extent that it’s hard to know what it all adds up to.

Pathetic Fallacy is a cleverly conceived hour of theatre, and its twin elements are brought together in a touching final sequence. But it’s not one whose questions or insights linger long in the memory.

Blind Date

Blind Date CanadaHub ★★★★   

CanadaHub closes its evenings with a show of utter simplicity and utter joy. Blind Date is just what it sounds like: an on-stage date between two strangers, in this case simmering red-nosed clown Rebecca Northan and an audience member selected minutes beforehand. But if you fear being dragged up on stage, worry not: Northan and her team mingle with the audience beforehand to carefully select suitable – and, most importantly, willing – participants.

For the victim finds himself (is it always a he? It’s hard to know) right in the centre of things for the whole duration of the show. The miracle, however, is that Northan makes the experience a thing of utter pleasure for participant and audience alike. She pokes gentle fun and sees how far she can take things, for sure. Can she steal a kiss, or lure him back to her ‘flat’? Whatever the outcome, her responses never approach humiliation, nor even hold up her date’s foibles for ridicule.

It’s even better, of course, if the participant already has a partner in the audience – as was the case with research scientist Greg on the night I went. (Obviously no two shows are ever the same, though it’s likely they follow a generally similar trajectory). It’s all part of the fun to watch glances of concern and reassurance passed back and forth between stage and audience as Northan’s suggestions grow increasingly bold – and more importantly, to feel pride as Greg grew in confidence and boldness, giving as good as he got, and even opening up about some clearly personal issues.

Blind Date feels like improv in its purest, kindest sense, a tender and very funny exchange between two individuals that at times even approaches a therapy session. As such, it’s a deeply compassionate celebration of human connections, idiosyncrasies and affection – and it’s side-achingly funny, too.

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